Jennifer Kirk’s Rocklin-based business includes the online Posh Puppy Boutique and two grooming salons called Posh Paws. (Photos by Andrew Calisterio)

Getting to Know: Jennifer Kirk

Owner of Rocklin-based Posh Puppy Boutique sees sales soar during pandemic

Back Web Only Aug 26, 2020 By Vanessa Labi

Many things have changed during these strange and heavy times, but one thing you can still count on to bring joy to your life is the loving spirit of a dog. Jennifer Kirk’s Rocklin-based business, Posh Puppy Boutique, launched in 2007, has flourished during the pandemic, experiencing a 61-percent growth in sales thanks to a renewed focus on pets and increased adoptions. 

Perusing the online boutique during the dog days of summer, one might purchase a linen canine sundress or an on-trend chew toy shaped like a bottle of rosé. Beyond the online store, the business also includes two dog care and grooming salons called Posh Paws, in Rocklin and Granite Bay. 

If the pandemic has you digging deep into your streaming watchlist, you may have seen the niche 2019 documentary, “Well Groomed,” which explores the whimsical world of competitive dog grooming. Posh Paws is primarily focused on the grooming of the standard variety, but it has been known to do a (temporary) pink dye job here and there. The business has also partnered with Disney to costume two Beverly Hills Chihuahua films (sequels 2 and 3).

Kirk credits her staff with not only Posh Puppy’s recent growth, but also its ability to stay open, even as an essential business. The impact of COVID-19 required her to carefully consider the safety and comfort level of her employees. When nearly all her staff expressed a strong desire to work, she was able to keep her business functioning amid the new normal. “I think we probably would have lasted 30 days, honestly, if we had closed,” she says. “We would have been out of business.” 

As we strive to maintain some level of happiness these days, many of us lean on our dogs. Kirk is doing her part to provide levity and amusement to her customers, both human and canine. 

How I describe our business model: Posh Puppy Boutique is an e-commerce-only model. We actually did have a retail store at one point for about 10 years, but we closed that down pre-COVID because we wanted to focus on our online store. We’re a luxury pet boutique store, so we only carry high-end items. We do have economical items, but we definitely carry things that you can’t get at Petco or PetSmart or any of the big box stores. And we try to get most of our items from within the United States. 

A puppy’s role in a wedding: A lot of our products are custom items, so a lot of things are handmade. And right now, a big trend is people … getting married with their dogs and they’re getting matching outfits. (The dog) can be a bridesmaid or groomsman. We have designers that will actually measure the dogs, just like a human to make the custom outfit.

How we’re performing dog grooming safely: Dog grooming has gone up substantially, I would say by at least 60 percent. We can’t even keep up with the appointments. When people come to our salon, we do have curbside pickup and drop off. The employees are of course wearing masks (when interacting with customers), following all the protocols, sanitizers and so forth. … We had to just change where people cannot come with their dogs’ collars or leashes. We have them keep all their personal items so that we’re not touching them or cross contaminating. We have disposable leashes that we use to bring the dogs in and out, and then they just take that leash with them when they go. 

More time at home, more bandwidth for pets: I think (before the pandemic) people maybe didn’t feel like it was a good time to adopt a dog, because if they’re out of the house for 10-12 hours a day at work, they don’t want to leave their pet home. I mean, I don’t even like to go to dinner and leave my dog at home by themselves. I feel guilty. So I feel like now, a lot of people are home and have the opportunity to be home with their pet. I think that’s what’s brought the adoption rate up. There’s no more guilt. And you know, (California Gov. Gavin Newsom) just said that 75 percent of the workforce for the state of California is not going to be going back into their actual workspace. So I think the adoptions are going to continue. 

My advice for working from home with a dog: I come into the office, and my husband works from home. I will say that I think the biggest problem with him working at home is that (our three dogs are) constantly wanting to sit on his lap when he’s trying to have Zoom meetings. And we have little dogs, so they’re climbing on him. So I think you have to set up kind of a territory for the dogs. Even a playpen, especially while you’re working, establishes some kind of separation so they’re not becoming so dependent on you that when you do leave for a couple of hours that they’re not completely having anxiety. 

Jennifer Kirk says dog grooming at her Post Paws, in Rocklin and Granite Bay, has gone up more than 60 percent since the pandemic started.

What’s trending during the stay-at-home order: Our No. 1 seller right now is definitely toys. We have a lot of parody toys, like instead of a Louis Vuitton toy, it’s a Chewy Baton, and instead of Jimmy Choo (designer shoes), it’s Jimmy Chews. But the biggest one we’ve actually sold out five times right now during COVID is White Paw instead of White Claw (alcoholic seltzer). …  During this time when people are home with their dogs, they just want to spoil them a little bit and buy a couple (more things than usual).

My favorite and, coincidentally, our most extravagant product: My favorite product and the most unusual product is (our) Swarovski Crystal Bathtub for dogs. … They’re about $7,000, and they’re all handmade by this artist out of Southern California who’s amazing. It’s just gorgeous in person. I actually had a prince in Dubai buy three of them. When we had them delivered, it was seriously unbelievable. 

Rocklin takes Hollywood: We’ve had some exposure in the films, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 and 3. Disney first contacted me in 2008 for the film costuming for Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. When they came to us and asked to supply a bunch of clothing, I was shocked. I thought, you guys make all this. And they’re like, “Oh no, we don’t have time to make all this stuff.” So we worked with the costume designers with what they wanted, and then we kind of altered things and went from there. That went so well that they reached back out again to do the third film and we expanded from the costuming to also being the brand of the little boutique in the hotel in the film as well. 

My favorite current project: I’m actually working on relaunching our new website. … I hired an outside company to do it and we’re working on our side, as well. It’s going to be a huge task because we have to move our 15,000 products and all the data to Shopify. I’ve been on the same platform for 15 years, so it’s a huge transition.

What drove me to open my business: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve always been driven for success and trying to do the best I can to get to the top of whatever I do, whether it’s school or work or whatever in my life. Having small dogs when my kids were little and seeing the joy in them dressing them up was just so much fun. I’m a huge animal lover, so it was a perfect fit. 

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