In this edition of Perspectives, we look at Barkstown Road — another one of the businesses that make the Louisville Highlands a special and unique place to live. Kim Reece is the owner and founder of Barkstown Road, which has been a staple in The Highlands for nearly five years now. A year ago, she opened a second location on Frankfort Avenue in Clifton. We wanted to know what makes her store different than the big box pet retailers in the city.
The first thing you’ll notice about Barkstown Road is that the dogs coming in are healthy-looking and happy. Their coats are shiny, their teeth look good, they’re svelte, and their tails are wagging. “We have a couple customers whose dogs are currently being treated for cancer,” Reece says. “Their vets initially, about a year ago, gave these dogs like two months to live. They switched from dry food diets to one of our commercially-prepared raw food diets and incorporated some of our raw goat’s milk as well. Now, a year later, they’re alive and well. You would never know they’re fighting cancer.” She’s not a vet, but she’s a firm believer that diet goes a long way in providing a pet with a healthy lifestyle.
What Makes Barkstown Road special?
- Barkstown Road is smaller, locally owned and operated, and offers more specialty items you won’t find at big box stores.
- Their biggest draw is their frozen raw food and dehydrated food lines.
- They specialize in dry kibbles that are lower in carbs, devoid of fillers, and free from grain.
- It’s not all about food, though! You’ll find a chew corner, durable dog toys, catnip toys, and a freeze-dried raw treat bar.
- Reece has seen with her own eyes the impact of a diet change on some of her clients’ cancer-fighting dogs.
The Importance of Location
Finding the right location is essential for a business to thrive. Louisville, KY is fortunate to have so many walkable communities where people take great pride in supporting their local small businesses. For Reece, The “funky, cool” The Highlands was an immediate fit. “It made sense because The Highlands is a long-established neighborhood of people who support local businesses, a shopping destination that attracts people from all over town,” she explained. They originally opened near restaurants like Yang Kee Noodle and Homemade Pie and Ice Cream near Baxter Avenue, but moved down to a more retail-oriented section on Bonnycastle, around the corner from Doo Wop Shop and Leatherhead.
The Barkstown Road location on Frankfort Avenue is equitable for the business because there are a lot of single young professionals and empty nesters whose pets are like their children. It’s another “very walkable” section of town where you tend to see a lot of dog walkers out and about. Naturally, Reece was looking for this characteristic when location-shopping. She adds that it was serendipitous that she just happened to find two locations with the same address: 2005.
You can learn more about Barkstown Road at www.barkstownroad.com or by stopping into one of their locations – at 2005 Bonnycastle in The Highlands or at 2005 Frankfort Avenue in Clifton. They’re also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Barkstown Road Podcast Transcript:
In this week’s episode of Perspectives, brought to you by Louisville’s luxury real estate brokerage, Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty, I’m speaking with Kim Reece, the owner and founder of Barkstown Road, Louisville’s local pet supply boutique. Kim, it’s nice to meet you. Thanks for having me over to your store today. How are you?
Kim: I’m great. How are you doing?
Greg: I am doing well. Your name came up on a recent podcast actually. I was talking to someone about The Highlands and kind of what makes The Highlands unique and funky and kind of cool. Your, I guess, boutique, your pet supply boutique came up. I’m hoping you can tell me a little bit about it.
Kim: Sure, I would love to. Our Highland store opened five years ago. Technically, it’ll be five years in March. We opened originally a little further down Bardstown Road, closer to where now where Yang Kee Noodle is and Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen is…
Greg: Yeah, right by Baxter Avenue.
Kim: Correct. Then, after we were opened for about a year and a half, we decided to move down to Bonnycastle, which is where we are now. We’re around the corner from the Doo Wop Shop and Leatherhead. We’re now in more of a retail oriented location as opposed to like a restaurant area, where we were before.
Greg: What makes your store a boutique? What does that mean to be a boutique pet supply store? I think everyone has a pretty good idea of what a pet supply store is. What’s boutique about it?
Kim: Of course, we’re smaller, which usually hints at boutique. You have less employees. You’re a smaller establishment. You’re locally owned and operated. You can find more unique products. We have things that are a little more specialty items, things that you can’t necessarily find at the larger stores here in Louisville.
Greg: I brought my dog in today. He’s sitting on the floor right next to me, actually, he’s laying down.
Kim: So cute.
Greg: Thank you. Your dog is walking around. There’s a cat walking around here. What do I need to go look at in your store for my guy? What can I find here that would interest him that maybe I couldn’t find at one of the big box pet supply stores?
Kim: Yeah. Okay. Sorry…. Our Holistic Vet is grabbing some raw foods out of our freezer to test with one of her clients.
Greg: That’s something you can find here you can’t find in a big box store. Can you touch on that real quickly?
Kim: Exactly. Yeah, of course. We carry raw diets from two small companies here in the United States. One, in particular, is very focused on quality of life for the animals, appropriately feeding those animals, so, in turn, when the meats and the raw milks and everything are fed to our dogs and cats, they are getting the ultimate max nutrition that they can out of a product like that.
That’s one of my favorite things we carry is more biologically appropriate foods, whether it’s a dry food, a dehydrated food, or a frozen raw food.
Greg: Biologically appropriate. Do you just mean grain-free? Or, is there some kind of … How far does that go? What does that mean?
Kim: Sure. Yeah. It can mean a lot of different things, on a more specific note, I mean that it’s going to be raw. Dogs and cats both still have components in their bodies that allow them to break down raw meat. They have enzymes in their saliva to help break down raw meat. Their stomachs are more acidic than ours. Their digestive tracts are shorter. Biologically, they’re still made to break down raw meat.
Now, in more broadly speaking terms I guess I should say, we do have some dry foods that are also going to be more biologically appropriate. Now, they’re not going to be as much as the raw diets, but they are going to be like grain free, lower carbohydrates, more meat inclusion, things like that.
Greg: It sounds like it’s just an attempt to get the diet, I guess, more natural in the sense of the dogs, for instance, weren’t domesticated out of nothing. They come from wolves. What do wolves eat? Is that the connection?
Kim: Yes, exactly.
Greg: The same for cats?
Kim: Yes. Cats actually are still obligate carnivores. They really can survive on a meat and organ only diet. They really have no need for veggies or carbohydrates.
Greg: Sounds like me.
Greg: I’m looking around. It looks like you have some treats but you have some other stuff in here as well. It’s not just …
Kim: Oh, yeah, definitely. You don’t have to come in here and only expect to find foods and talk about diets. We have durable dog toys that are made in the USA. We’ve got lots of great catnip-filled toys for kitties. We have a big chew corner and also a freeze-dried raw bar.
You can pick up things for your dog to gnaw on and keep them happy and busy and keep their teeth clean. Hopefully, leave you alone for a little bit so you can have some peace and quiet.
Greg: Then, you have two locations. Is that correct? The Highlands one is your oldest one? (Dogs barking!) Whoops, sorry! That’s my guy. Dogs walking by….
Kim: Dogs walking by. Hey, Otto. Come on. All right. You did it. Good job!
Greg: You have two locations, right? One is in The Highlands and that’s been around a little longer. Then, you opened one maybe, you said, a year ago on Frankfort Avenue. I’m curious. How did you choose your locations? You can start with The Highlands. Did you decide The Highlands was going to be the right kind of place for your kind of store? Did you live in The Highlands? Why there?
Kim: The Highlands I felt like made the most sense because it was a long established neighborhood of people who support local businesses, an area where people come from all over town. It’s like a destination spot to shop.
Greg: Did you live there?
Kim: I didn’t, no. I’m not from Louisville. I grew up in Covington, but my husband’s from here. He initially suggested The Highlands when I was trying to figure out where to go. He was right. It really made the most sense to go to The Highlands.
Greg: Did you drive around and look for dog walkers and try to figure out, “Do we have enough people?” Does that make sense?
Greg: Like, I got out of the car this morning to come in your store. I’d say, 60, 70% of the people I walked by were out with pets. I don’t know if it was your store or a coincidence or how that works, but it’s noticeable.
Kim: It’s a little bit of both, I think. Both Frankfort Avenue and The Highlands have a lot of people who have dogs. They’re very walkable parts of town, so it’s easier to have a dog in those neighborhoods. A lot of people live in both neighborhoods who maybe don’t have kids yet or they’re not planning on ever having kids or they’re empty nesters so their dogs kind of replace their kids who have grown up and moved out.
That works well for us when people have critters that they take care of like they’re their own children. Of course, we do still have plenty of families who shop with us who have young kids and bring their dogs in, but yeah, I think that’s a big part of it.
That these parts of town support local businesses. They’re very walkable so a lot of people with dogs live there. A lot of people live there who treat their critters like their own kids.
Greg: How good do you get at recognizing dogs? Do you know the dogs and the customers when they come in? Do you know the dogs and not the customers?
Kim: Yes, sometimes. Sometimes, like if a dog has multiple owners, whether it’s a couple, roommates or whatever, someone else might bring the dog in that I haven’t ever seen bring the dog in before. I’ll recognize the dog and be like, “Oh, nice to meet you. I recognize your dog.”
Greg: That’s funny.
Kim: I can’t remember what I wore yesterday or what I’m supposed to do today, but with our regular customers, when somebody walks through the door, I remember what they feed their dogs and what they bought last time and ask them how that product is working for them. It’s funny, I guess, when something’s important to you, like it is to me, I can remember and hold onto that kind of information.
Greg: Before I leave, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you… You told me that at the back of your Frankfort store, I think in the back, you have a holistic vet. Right? You share some space. What does that mean? It’s a different business, I know, but I’m curious.
Kim: Yeah, of course. Like you said, different business. She sublets a space from us and operates separately, but we do work together quite closely. She has been practicing vet medicine since, I think, 1979. She did your traditional training. She went to vet school, is certified, and took all the appropriate tests.
In 1981, she decided to also put a focus on holistic health and holistic vet medicine. She also has multiple certifications in doing things like acupuncture, chiropractic work, homeopathy…
Greg: On the dogs?
Kim: Correct, on just animals.
Greg: Just animals.
Kim: I wish I could get her to do acupuncture on me, but she is not certified to do it so she won’t do it. Yeah, it’s very interesting. She has, of course, this medical scientific background, but she also has this holistic approach. Of course, she uses traditional medicine and traditional treatments whenever needed, but she also incorporates holistic treatments whenever possible.
Greg: Let me give you a chance to brag about your store a little bit. Are you able to notice between the food you have available, the raw diet, the grain-free dry food, the holistic vet available, do the dogs that frequent your store, do they seem to be happier, healthier, prettier coats? That kind of …
Kim: Yeah. All the above, really. Shinier coats, better looking teeth, because of course, when you’re doing away with carbohydrates altogether or giving them a food that’s low in carbohydrates, you’re not putting as much sugar on the teeth, so there’s not as much plaque.
All the way up to, we have a couple customers whose dogs are currently being treated for cancer. Their vets initially, about a year ago, gave their dog like two months to live. Now, almost a year later, he’s not only still alive and the cancer stopped spreading, but when he comes in here and runs around happily, you would never know that he’s been fighting cancer. Even her vet’s amazed. They’re getting ready to …
Greg: Did they switch their diet at that time?
Kim: Yes, they did. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on that. Yes, she switched from a dry food diet to one of our commercially prepared raw food diets and incorporated some of our raw goat’s milk as well. Of course, I’m not a vet and I don’t pretend to be.
Greg: You don’t play one on the radio?
Kim: I do not play one on the radio. I am more than happy to give advice based on what I know and the research I’ve done and also off of experiences other customers have had, but I definitely encourage people to check out some of the great holistic vets we have here in town. Dr. St. Germain, who we share the space with. There’s a few others here in town.
Then also, come in and chat with us and see what we can do to help. Pretty much all the time, you’re going to see better results from going routes like this, including feeding a healthier, more appropriate diet.
Greg: If someone wants to find one of your stores or find you online, what’s the best way to find you in real life, find you in the virtual world?
Kim: Sure. Of course, like you said, we’re located in The Highlands and on Frankfort Avenue in Clifton. We’re at 2005 Bonnycastle and The Highlands. Then, 2005 Frankfort Avenue.
Greg: Is that a coincidence? How’d you do that? 2005?
Kim: It was like serendipity.
Kim: When I came to look at this space, I was like, “The space is perfect and it’s 2005. We’ve got to go with it.” Then, we have a website. barkstownroad.com. There’s no online store, but there’s a lot of good nutritional information on there. We’ve got a blog. You can also reach out to us via the Contact Us tab on our website. We’re also on social media so you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Greg: What’s your favorite social media? Where should people, if they had to choose, what’s your favorite?
Kim: I would say we do more on Facebook, but I personally think Instagram is a little more fun because you can do the insta-stories, I feel like people see your post a little more often. Yeah, I guess Facebook. There’s more information that I can share on Facebook.
Kim: Thank you so much!
Thank you for joining Perspectives this week, presented by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty. If you have an idea for a future episode or think you might like to participate, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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