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Behind the Scenes: Petrageous Designs

From bowls to toys to apparel, the Burlington, Mass.-based manufacturer focuses on offering high-quality, safe products for dogs.
By Michael Ventre

It all started with dinnerware. Human dinnerware.

Class Act Chianti Line

Gretchen George, founder of Petrageous Designs, always had a keen eye and a creative mind, which came in handy during her career in retail dinnerware. One of her hobbies was to browse arts and crafts festivals, where she might routinely plunk down $70 for a hand-made dog bowl (she decided her soft-coated Wheaton Terrier, Buddy, was worth it).

Eventually she put two and two together--the factories tha t made dishes and bowls for people, and her love of pooches--and convinced her then-employer to expand into the four-legged market. In 2004, she left her job to start her own company.

Sometime this year, Petrageous Designs will ship its 10 millionth piece of product. Across the U.S., many critters are chowing down in some of the most fetching dishes and bowls around.

“When I grew up, the dog ate in the hallway or outside,” noted Chris George, Gretchen’s stepson, who is head of sales for the company based in Burlington, Mass. “Now he eats in the kitchen, and he has a water bowl in the bedroom. Now they’re part of the family unit.

“Now people are buying dog bowls to match their kitchen décor, or their personality.”

Slicker Bones Line

Since its inception, Petrageous has expanded beyond just bowls to include other lines, such as placemats, apparel, toys, travel kits and mugs and jars. Yet Petrageous uses the bowl not just as the centerpiece for its product lines, but also as its symbol of integrity.

“We’re really focused on making high-quality and safe products,” Chris George said. “We apply the same FDA standards to our products that are used in human dinnerware factories.

“The other element is affordability. We want the masses to be able to buy our stuff, yet everybody thinks it’ll cost more than we tell them.”

Petrageous considers itself the leader in the industry bowl category. After starting with ceramics, it has expanded to plastic and stainless-steel bowls to accommodate the needs of all breeds; the deduction was simple: big clumsy dog plus ceramic bowl equals many pieces.


Petrageous Designs

Location: Burlington, Mass.

Owner: Gretchen George, Charles George and Daniel Wren

Employees: 12

Years in Business: 5 1/2

Areas of Distribution/Business: Globally

Annual Revenues: Considered proprietary/not released

Company Mission: To design and manufacture the highest quality and pet safe products at affordable prices while offering a focus on fashionable design and great functionality. Company aim is also to provide the highest quality customer service as serving its customers is a privilege.

Sales Growth: Shipping its ten millionth piece of product this year

Product/Business Categories: Pet bowls, pet toys, pet apparel, travel products

Product/Business Lines: Petrageous Designs, My Pet's pet toys

In 2009, Petrageous added a collection of travel items, including such indispensable road-trip staples as a collapsible bowl, a poop bag holder and a travel-treat bag that attaches to the belt with Velcro. There is also a travel kit that includes all those items and more.

“People travel more with pets nowadays, so we see it as a growth category,” Chris George said.

Last year, the company introduced some new clothing items-- not frou-frou sweaters, but more practical choices.

“We have a Kodiak Coat, which reminds me of North Face or something,” Chris George said. “I would wear something like that – waterproof, breathable, thick-lined. All the stuff is easy on, easy off with Velcro, so it’s not trying to stuff dogs’ legs through holes.

“It’s an evolving business for us and a huge growth opportunity for us. We’re making some stuff in India where we used to be strictly in China. We’re always looking for cool fabric and design.”

Petrageous also added plush toys to its roster, with such favorites as Buddy Bull and Gia Giraffe. In addition, in March 2010 the company plans to unveil a new line of rope and chew toys, too.

“We’re really a company that envisions itself as an overall pet accessory supplier,” Chris George said. “We sort of got branded as these bowl people, because that’s where we started and that’s what we did well. But our overall vision was to take the design and quality and take it into different categories.”

Charlie and Gretchen George, along with good friend Dan Wren, run the company. Chris and his brother Brian work there also, as well as six others.

“Not everybody is family, but it feels like it,” George said.

The company has tripled its office space since it started, and it added three new employees in the past 12 months.

Buddy, the company’s mascot, also comes to work every day, and acts as if he’s in charge. He is joined by Brian’s mutt Chopper, a rescue from Puerto Rico.

“He’s probably the most spoiled dog you’ve ever seen,” Chris said.

Shimmer and Shine Line

Petrageous is taking the consumer and retailer goodwill that it built up from the bowl business and using it to offer its entire menu of wares.

“Where do we go next in this environment, especially this economic environment?” Chris George asked. “Retailers in general tend to want to consolidate their vendor base. They want to buy more from less people. That’s how we look at the bowl category. ‘Geez, now we can basically supply the whole bowl section whereas before we can only supply ceramic.’

“Our strategy was to identify a category and then build a product line that coordinates with that category. When we looked at toys we saw that plush was probably the most popular. We will add to that, we will double our plush line in 2010 with new introductions at the Global Pet Expo, and we will add rope and chew and tug toys,” he added.

While the economy in general continues to struggle to find its footing, Petrageous is looking ahead to a promising 2010.
“It’s an exciting time,” Chris George said. “We’re not trying to say, ‘Ha ha, look at us.’ We’re saying, ‘Wow!’” <HOME>

Posted: February 19, 2010

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Reader Comments
Hey Gretchen, I've always wanted you to expand into the Equine Market, since you are doing more than ceramics I'd love to get together and talk about Horse products (water buckets etc.....), talk soon ! Love, Sandy Hamel
Sandy, Ipswich, MA
Posted: 4/19/2010 6:14:24 AM
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