The Paw Shop has opened its door to every man, woman and dog, offering a meeting ground for all those folks who treat their pets like children who deserve the best of everything.

This new pet supply shop in Leo is owned by Emily Dykstra, who wanted to bring people together in a place that has unique toys and treats to spoil their pets.

“Obviously you can get these items online, but I feel like now more than ever, the community needs a place to come together to see neighbors and friends and to bring your dogs,” Dykstra said. “I want it to be a fun place where people can put a smile on their face and get something fun for their pets.”

Dykstra shared that she had a degree in journalism and business from Indiana University, but that this was her first business venture. After taking time off to raise her kids, as well as two dogs and three cats of her own, Dykstra was ready to take on a new project.

Like a college course or a puppy obedience class, jump starting this business has granted her a slew of lessons to keep in mind as she continues onward.

“It’s an art form as well as a science,” Dykstra said. “I want to keep tweaking what I’m carrying and purchasing to meet the needs of the people coming in. My first inventory was a little bit of a guess.”

The shop has been opened only acouple weeks, but the outpouring of two- and four-legged fans that have come in has encouraged her to stay the course and keep learning. Even before her grand opening, Dykstra was being welcomed and visited by members of the community excited to see her and the Paw Shop join the Leo business community.

“I’ve been so totally surprised by how excited people are,” Dykstra said. “I had all ages from old people to younger people and kids. Everybody loves to talk about their pets and they especially like the fact that they can bring them in.”

Once Dykstra has gained her footing as a business owner, she’d like to connect even more with the community that has rallied around her and the shop. She noted she’d like to do fundraisers and events for pets and their owners like trick-ortreating at Halloween and pictures with Santa during Christmastime.

Dykstra would also like to help other local artisans cash in on the pet product market. She is in talks with a local baker to make and bake homemade dog biscuits, and there’s enough space in the store for a groomer.

I have started making those connections,” Dykstra said. “There’s people coming in, giving me their business cards…. I feel like the industry, especially with animals and our pets is bigger than I even realize.”

In fact, Dykstra sees pets and the pet industry as an equalizer that can connect people of all different areas, ideals and beliefs. It is her hope that the Paw Shop will be a common ground for pet lovers of all kinds to meet and chat and bond over the love they have for their furry, four-legged friends.

“Pets have a special place in people’s families and in their lives,” Dykstra said. “They bring people so much joy…sometimes the best part of their day is if when they come home and their pet comes running toward them…. No matter what happens to us through the day, when we come home and get that unconditional love, it fills you up in a way that nothing else can.”

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