Independently Speaking: Give It a Growl

This convenience store location is part dog park, part growler station, part genius

By  Samantha Strong Murphey, Freelance writer

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Blaine Bacher (above) is always innovating, weaving different industries together in creative ways. WagsPark Shell, his convenience store in Cincinnati, is situated on the edge of Bacher’s private dog park, drawing customers and marketing inspiration from the dog theme. Owners bring their dogs to the store’s dog wash and full-service groomer, but the canines aren’t the only growlers at WagsPark Shell. It’s also home to a one-of-a-kind foodservice station and a budding craft-beer growler franchise.

Bacher grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, a self-employed nightclub owner from the age of 20. At 24, he went to work for Pet Stop Pet Fence Systems, a large invisible-fencing company, and spent four years learning the industry before opening the private dog park WagsPark. The 3-acre park includes two lakes for dogs to swim in and a full-service bar with 20-foot TV screens to entertain their owners.

Bacher runs the business for property owner Bob Slattery. When they opened WagsPark, Slattery also purchased the adjacent corner property that held a gas station with eight pumps and a convenience store, and WagsPark Shell was born.

New Business

“This certainly was not a business that we had a lot of experience in, but the location made sense for a purchase, so we decided to take on the challenge,” Bacher says.

A simple way to connect the two businesses came via the on-site car wash. To carry the dog theme through to the gas station, Bacher and Slattery added four bays for self-service dog washing. A short time later, when the car-wash machinery needed upgrades, they decided to close the car wash and convert the entire space into an indoor self-service dog wash and full-service grooming facility.

“As you can see,” Bacher says, “we are always trying to think outside of the box.” Their next innovation came as Bacher brainstormed ways to provide better margins than standard convenience-store fare. In summer 2012, he opened a Hot Bretzel station inside the store, selling fresh-baked German pretzels plain or with Nathan’s Hot Dogs or Johnsonville Brats inside. The bretzels (the German word for pretzels), which come with three freshly made dip options, were recently voted one of Cincinnati’s Best Cheap Eats by Cincinnati magazine.

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