The Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce named Lake Gaston Dog Boarding the business of the year at its annual meeting and dinner in January. Owners Karens and Joe Alocombright talk about their growth, success, and staying busy since they opened.
At the event, Chamber president and CEO Christina Wells noted the business’s growth since opening in 2014 and its expansion in 2016 that nearly doubled its space. She mentioned that Lake Gaston Dog Boarding listens to its customers and responds in stride.
Lake Gaston Dog Boarding opened in June 2014, and has grown every year since then. Last summer was the first summer they had a waiting list every weekend to get a pet boarded.
“It’s busy,” said Joe.
They usually have a big waiting list for major holidays, so the couple recommends booking three months in advance.
“We need to be careful of just talking about dogs,” said Joe. “Last Thanksgiving we had 75 dogs, six cats, and a bird”
Joe said that Lake Gaston Dog Boarding is open to most fur babies. The couple mentioned that they won’t take reptiles.
The facility can handle around 80 pets at a time, but that depends on the family.
“If the dogs come from a family, we can usually keep them together,” said Karen.
When the business opened, it had 15 kennels. Now, it has 58 spots including a number of indoor/outdoor runs. The facility also has multiple large play areas dressed with synthetic grass and an after-hours pick-up/drop-off location, so owners can use the facility almost round the clock.
Lake Gaston Dog Boarding has room for a groomer, but currently doesn’t have one on staff. There is also a pick-up/drop-off service within a reasonable distance, and they even do in-home check-ins for cats.
Before dog boarding, Karen took care of horses, but has always loved animals.
The couple said they looked for a place to board their pets when they first moved to Lake Gaston and couldn’t find anything in the area.
“If we don’t do it, someone else will do it,” said Joe. So the idea was born.
Now Lake Gaston Dog Boarding employs about 12 people, three full-time and the rest are part-time. Some of their employees are high school kids at their first jobs. They also hire summer help.
Before dog boarding, Joe worked in sales and service to the paper mill industry in New York, and now does the same in this area. Semi-retired, he said that he only works about 100 days a year.
The couple said that a lot of their customers come from Richmond, Va., and Raleigh, N.C.
“Someone might rent a place on the lake and leave their dog with us for the night, but come and pick them up for the day,” said Joe.
They are expecting wait times again this summer and suggest scheduling as early as possible. Their log book already has pets scheduled for December.
Karen and Joe both said they’ve been bitten, but they don’t want to name names.
“You would be surprised by the ones who bite,” said Karen.
For a pet to be boarded, they are required to be up-to-date on all of their vaccinations. The couple will take unaltered males, but they won’t take a female that is in heat. The couple said they pay attention to who is and isn’t neutered when it comes to playtime. They also do not have any breed restrictions.
The couple said the business can’t get much bigger, but might change how they’re staffed.
“We want to be able to do the hands-on stuff that we can,” said Karen. “It’s hard to get more than 75 dogs out for playtime every day.”
“A lot of time also goes into cleaning every single kennel every day,” added Joe.
Lake Gaston Dog Boarding also puts together a calendar every year with pictures they take of the pets they are caring for. Each year they sell the calendar, and proceeds benefit the Lake Country SPCA. Last year they raised $1,200. They have been putting together a yearly calendar since they opened.
The couple is looking forward to another busy season and urges anyone interested in boarding to schedule as far in advance as possible. Even though there might be a wait list, people always cancel, and they rarely had to turn someone away last year.
To contact Lake Gaston Dog Boarding, call 434-636-7387 or visit the website at lkgdogboarding.com.