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To market, to market, with dog treats galore

Farmers market vendor has been making treats for about six years
scene-market DR30
Calvin Allers of Dear Dog Treats at the Farmers Market in downtown St. Albert on July 20, 2019.

Dennis Stelmack has been in the business of making and selling dog treats for six years, and this year marks his second selling them at the St. Albert Farmers  Market. Dear Dog Treats had humble beginnings, as do most small business featured at the market, and over the years, Dennis has been lucky enough to see great success in doing what he loves.

Dennis places great importance on giving back to the community. With every pound of beef sold, Dear Dog Treats donates one dollar in the form of grants and treats to The CAWS (Companion Animal Welfare Society) – which finds care and homes for pets in need – and just recently was able to make a donation of $2,500. All of the packaging used is recyclable, and any product displays are made from recycled pallets and plastics.

Nowadays, Dennis has four smokers and a full pull-behind trailer to carry his product. He features the treats at markets around the area – such as the 124 Grand Market, the Baseline Farmers Market in Sherwood Park, the new Bountiful Market on Edmonton’s south side, and of course, the St. Albert Farmers' Market – much to the delight of the pups stopping by with their owners.

Q: How did you get into the business and making and selling your own dog treats?

A: I would smoke some pieces of meat from hunting, and would put them in my pockets for my pups and the other dogs when I went to the park.

I knew how good of a product I had from people in the dog parks. I had people coming up to me and saying ‘my dog is addicted to whatever you’ve got in your pocket’.

I’ve been making treats now for about six years. Now I have four smokers, and can smoke almost 1000 pounds of bone at a time.

Q: Do you have any best sellers that the dogs seem to really enjoy?

A: Over half of our business is bones and bone related products, like the beef bones. We also sell marrow medallions so that smaller dogs can access the health benefits of marrow; also since the 10 pound bones are good for big breeds but can be hard to carry for people.

Some other big sellers are the en-Trail mix; also the chicken chews just fly off the shelf.

Even the pickiest dogs, when they do a taste test, their owners are amazed and say ‘my dog likes it!’ We’ll send home a taste test sample bag and nine times out of 10 they say ‘my dog loved it and took the whole bag apart!’

Q: With people becoming more conscious of not only what they put in their own bodies, but also in their dogs, would you say it’s good timing for your business?

A: We had already been established before it really started, but the timing couldn’t have been better for us.

Things are changing, the love for pets, and the trend is that more and more people are scaling their dog up from ‘the family pet’ to just ‘the family’. There’s way more pampering. People are supporting local, and our ingredients are as good as can get.

In the dog’s eyes, you are the mother, the father, the brother, the sister, and the best friend. The changes like that have really helped the business flourish. Quality over quantity is our concept, and no matter how many smokers we get, that’s not going to change.

Q: Are there benefits to being a smaller business in this market compared to some of the bigger conglomerates?

A: I like being a small business and being able to give back to the community. I don’t want my company to be about money; it’s about a good feel.

So for example, the en-Trail is a mix – liver, lung, kidney, and throat. So when we can save things from going to the landfill, and give dogs delicious treats at the same time, we’re doing well. We really just want to give back and give love to the dogs.