Specialty dog treat bakery Puppernickel settles into its new Downtown Hillsboro location.
After a three-decade career in the semiconductor business, the Hillsboro woman was through with corporate life.
“It was a Sunday night, at about 8 o’clock,” Monroe recalls with clarity. “It was a beautiful evening and I just said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to do my own thing.'”
That was a year ago. Now, Monroe is the owner of Puppernickel, a dog-treat bakery in Downtown Hillsboro, 131 S.E. Third Ave.
Monroe runs Puppernickel with her husband, Tim. The shop opened July 1 after months at local farmers markets.
The treats range in size from bite-sized pellets to large cakes. Her food is all natural, she said, offering flavors like peanut butter and banana or cream cheese, tapioca and honey. The shop offers a handful of different cakes, cupcakes and treats for dogs, ranging in price from $2 to $17. The shop also offers rawhide bones, grooming products, bow-ties and sweaters for pets.
Many people treat their dogs as members of their family, Monroe said. When pet owners have birthdays, anniversaries or other reasons to celebrate, they want the dogs included, too.
Her taste testers are her two dogs, Rosie and Glenda. They enjoy the canine cannoli, she said, which has blueberry and cream-cheese filling.
The food isn’t your traditional dog treats, Monroe said. She likes it that way.
“Our treats are all human tested and puppy approved,” she said. “There’s been a few times my husband has handed me a tray of doggie treats and said ‘dinner is served.'”
After that fateful Sunday night, Monroe put in her notice to her bosses at Lam Research in Tualatin the following day.
But what to do next?
“I love being with my dogs; I’m an animal person,” she said. “I just started looking at ideas.”
An avid baker, Monroe soon learned about doggie bakeries — she calls them “barkeries” — which specialize in making one-of-a-kind treats for man’s best friend.
Monroe had made her own dog treats for some time, after she started looking at ingredients in the dog food she was feeding her own pets.
Often, she said, her dogs became lethargic after eating treats, so she came up with a recipe they preferred.
“I thought, ‘I can do better than this,'” she said. “Then they were out running and jumping like nothing was wrong. They weren’t lethargic, their stomachs didn’t hurt. I started giving my treats to my friends’ dogs. They loved them.”
She started selling her treats at the Hillsboro Farmers Market and Tuesday Night Market. Her husband diligently peddles Puppernickel products at the Beaverton farmer’s market, and she’s a regular at events at local wineries and the Oregon Humane Society.
With several new businesses in downtown, Monroe said she feels welcomed by the community.
“We love Downtown Hillsboro,” she said. “There’s this new energy here that’s great.”
Monroe is riding a wave of pet-friendly businesses that have exploded in recent years. Most Americans own some sort of pet, spending hundreds of dollar a year on pet food and treats.
More than three-quarters of dog owners purchase treats for their pets each year, according to Monroe, and consumers are spending more and more on their pets, with birthday and adoption day cakes growing in popularity among consumers.
Artisanal dog treat bakeries are becoming more and more common, according to trade magazine Petfood Industry. Pet treats have been one of the highest-growing markets for pet food makers for years, with sales of treats reaching $7 billion in 2015. Specialty stores, such as Monroe’s, are viewed as the main reason the dog treat market has blossomed in recent years, growing nearly 10% each year, the magazine said.
The 600-square-foot shop has plenty of room to grow, Monroe said. She’d like to hire additional staff in the future, and has plans to get her products into other parts of the local doggie-economy, such as dog-hotels.
“We’re new, we’re babies,” she said. “But we’re growing.”