Meet Scott and Tyler Parker — owners of Playful Pack, a boarding and doggie day care business in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center. For Tyler, it’s also personal as he lives here with his wife Alyssa [a co-owner] and two daughters, one at McLean High School and one at Longfellow Middle School. “For me, it’s special as I’m a McLean resident. It’s really special for me to have a small business here in the heart of McLean and be a part of the community. ”
Playful Pack: The Beginning
Tyler: This is our first delve into the pet world. I was in law enforcement for 10 years as a detective in Cape May County, New Jersey. Scott was in a bunch of different small businesses and was approached by an individual talking about starting a dog daycare and boarding business. So the three of us worked on opening that first location in 2016. I really got to learn and do everything from the ground up. It was 2017 when I decided to leave law enforcement. I was commuting on weekends to help out with the business and then doing everything else virtually. We opened our second location. Scott and I really enjoyed it. We saw the potential for more growth, especially in the Northern Virginia area and wanted to keep expanding. We parted ways with our initial partner who wanted to just keep things where he was in Central Maryland.. So the first store he took, we took the second store, which is now Playful Pack in Anapolis and just started growing from there. We opened up Fairfax Station, McLean, and onward to where we now have eight stores open and operating. It’s all family owned and operated. Scott, myself, my wife, Alyssa.
Scott: I opened my first restaurant and bar in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington in 2012. Since then, I’ve opened bars and barber shops and boxing gyms and stuff like that. Dog daycare is my number one business. It’s what I spend all my time on because it’s our family business and we’re both excited about it.
Passion for animals
Tyler: My wife and I have had numerous pets growing up with our two daughters. Currently, we have three dogs, two cats, and a fish. We’ve also had chickens for a period of time. We had a pig when we lived in New Jersey that was not able to make the move with us due to his size. We did find an amazing farm there for him. Pets have always been a big, and animals in general, a big part of our lives and a real passion for us. Even in our spare time, we like going to the zoo or aquariums and things like that. It’s really special to be part of a business that can incorporate that into it.
Scott: It’s the same. We obviously grew up together, Tyler and I, so we grew up with pets. I have a crazy little French bulldog named Pesos. I don’t have three dogs like Tyler. I have one. Pet business is the best. As Tyler said, we’ve done other things in small business and they’re great, but there’s no feeling you get like taking care of someone’s pet and they come at the end of the day and they’re so excited to see their dog and their dog’s so excited to see them and it’s this big reunion. It’s just a more fun industry to be in than anything I’ve ever been in. It’s just so valuable and rewarding for that. We love the dog space. We love our McLean location. We’re super excited about the Chesterbrook remodel and just happy to be there.
A day in the life at Playful Pack
Scott: At McLean, we really focus on dog daycare and boarding. What’s neat about Playful Pack, through developing a smaller footprint, we are able to be much more into the heart of communities. So at Chesterbrook location, we’re next to the Safeway, where many people go for their daily groceries, next to the Starbucks, where they stop for their daily coffee. And we’re right there in the mix of it — as compared to being in an industrial park or off the beaten path or, out in the sticks.
We get a wide array of clients, people that come with their dogs for daycare is typically one of three reasons. They’re working all day and they can’t leave their dog home unattended for 12,14 hours or their dog can be a little destructive or noisy. They want their dog to be able to get his energy out with us. Third, which is amazing, is that people really understand and appreciate how it can enhance a dog’s life — through socialization, exercise, mental stimulation. [Doggie daycare] really just improves their day-to-day being and the dog’s life. We’ll find a wide array of customers from mid-20s young professionals to seniors who really can’t walk their dogs all the time and enjoy bringing their dogs and hear stories about their dogs playing with friends and things like that.
Playful pack: It’s a dog’s world
Scott: We’re an open play cage-free facility for our entire period of the day. Some businesses will force the dogs into a nap and a cage time, either in the mornings or in the evenings or during “lunchtime,” even if the dogs aren’t eating. For us, they’re able to choose if they want to play, if they want to rest. We have staff in either the little pack or the big pack, where the dogs are separated by size, temperament, and energy level. What’s the best fit? You could have an older lethargic lab in the little pack, or you could have Scott’s crazy Frenchie who’s small, but needs to be in the big pack just for his attitude. Monday through Friday, we offer what we call Packtivities, which are enrichment services. This is to mix the days up, especially for our dogs that come very frequently, to just provide something extra for our pet parents. So those are like bubble play or tunnels of fun, or we have story time, or we read the dogs books and disco party. We take pictures throughout the day, add them to the dog’s report cards. Every day you go home, you get a digital report card which tells you a little bit about your dog’s demeanor and it has some fun pictures in there.
Boarding at Playful Pack
Scott: We offer boarding in two different fashions. There’s what we call our condos. They’re 16 cubic feet with tempered glass fronts made of powdered coated steel. They’re pretty expensive, but they’re quality and it gives the dog a lot of space. We don’t put them into a typical crate that you would pop up and assemble. We also offer cage-free boarding where there’s an attendant in the room overnight. And now the dogs have like a living room-style setting of how to board. They can cuddle up with a friend, they can move about throughout the day or throughout the evening and find different spaces to sleep in. And that does really well for dogs that don’t like the confinement of a cage or a crate or a condo as we call them. But some dogs do prefer that. They enjoy that security. During our really max times, we might have 50 dogs boarding at night, you know, around Christmas, around spring break, or sometimes on peak seasons in the summer.
The fun — and good — of Playful Pack
Tyler: It’s amazing to see dogs come in as puppies and grow throughout the years, or staff have amazing relationships with certain dogs. What we also do is in all of our locations, all at our cost, we foster dogs from local rescues. So, at any given time, we have at least one dog in every location that’s a foster from a lucky dog or Homeward Trails or Mutt Love Rescue. We advertise it to our clients and try to find them a forever home and it gives the dog the availability to socialize with other dogs as often rescues don’t come from great places. So that’s rewarding as well. What seems to happen frequently too is the staff falls in love with them and they put in the adoption papers. It’s probably 50-50 dogs that end up with staff members and dogs that go home to either customers who want to add on a dog or just somebody from the community.
Scott: It goes back to what I was saying before about this industry. It’s just great being able to do what we do and provide a great place for dogs. It’s a happy, healthy sort of career.
Tyler: I’ve really also enjoyed the benefit of having the kids — 16-years-old and older — from McLean working at our stores. We are always hiring. If anyone’s interested or looking for a summer job, please do stop down in. You get to learn about dogs or work the front desk as well and interact with the community that way.
Scott: It’s a great community for families, for dogs. We’re really, really excited to see how nice the center has gotten. It’s going to be a big gathering place for the community. There’s so much good stuff coming in. It’s a real boon for the community and we hope to be a part of that.
Interview conducted by Gayle Jo Carter, Editor, McLean Today.
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