I met with Teressa Doaty, owner of Paws Play, at a Local Girl Gang event in November. I’m glad I finally got a chance to check out Paws Play and learn more about the business and Teressa. When I first entered the space I was greeted by Teressa’s dog Alayna for whom the business is named after. On my tour of the facilities I was super impressed by the cleanliness of the space, and how well thought out the design is. Plus! I got there early enough to experience the spa music and aromatherapy for myself… these pups are spoiled! Read on to learn more about Teressa’s journey to starting Paws Play.
Haley Mills: What were you doing before you started Paws Play?
Teressa Doaty: I supervise facilities maintenance for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). That is actually what I still do. I do that in the wee hours of the morning and then I come here. So from 3 AM - 11:30 AM I work there and then 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM I work here. Long days!
HM: What lead you to start Paws Play?
TD: As you can see I have a little fur child (her dog Alayna sits beside us). We were out walking, super cold on a Cleveland day and she wasn't really enjoying it and I wasn’t either. I’m like, “they should have something for dogs. Where do dogs exercise in the winter? There has to be something.” I didn’t even know doggy daycares were a thing at that point. When I got this job (at the RTA), I was over on the west side and I drove past one. I was like, “doggy daycare? What is this?!” So, I went in and took a tour. Then I’d send her there on my long days. I just felt bad I was working all day and then two nights a week I had grad school. I would go home and for a half hour - I’d eat, she’d eat, she’d go out and I’d go to school and come back and she’d be like, “I’ve been resting all day, let’s go! I’m so tired!!” So I started taking her on those days and she always rides shotgun in the car, but when I would pick her up from there, she hopped in the back seat. I was like, “who are you? I’ve never met you before!” So I was taking her there and then the business in me kicked in as we’re going there. I started running the numbers… I know how much I’m paying and they have x amount of dogs a day. You know just kept doing it that way, like huh. I kind of let the idea pass, but it kept poking at me. It kept resurfacing and eventually about 2014, it was like, “yeah this is what we are going to do.” So incrementally every year since then I started doing little things to prepare, little things to get ready, researching. Then 2017 we found the space and it was kind of go time from there. It was really hard finding the space. I always knew that I wanted to be downtown, because I’m like, there’s so many people down there and the services aren’t there. It wasn’t even as booming then as it is now. Now we’re in a place where we have 15,000 residents downtown, the timing almost couldn’t be better.
HM: How long did it take you to make the space your own?
TD: When I first found the space, I did a mock-up on graph paper of what I thought the space should look like. I kind of came in and was like, “this will be perfect.” This is the play area, this is the boarding room, back here is the grooming, so on and so forth. Then I got some graph paper and kind of sketched out where I wanted things and how big things should be and kind of did it to scale. That was summer of 2017. We didn’t sign the lease until the fall, permits not until March, I think, didn’t start construction until May, and it was a forceful finish by the end of August. Grand opening was August 30th.
HM: That’s a long process!
TD: It is. Especially when you're dealing with the city and their permits and red tape. Then you have to depend on other people for a lot of things. The landlord had way more items then I had, because none of this was here. Lights, not here. Heating, not here. Plumbing, not here.
HM: There was nothing in the space before?
TD: Nothing, open concrete, blank slate.That was probably the best thing about it, because I was able to make it my own. There was no demolition. The only thing we had to change was in the back where the restrooms were. All these little things along the way, it was pretty stressful.
HM: Had you experienced that before? Have you ever owned a business?
TD: No. Shoot from the hip, roll with the punches, do the best where you can, bloom where you are planted. All the little cliche token lines.
HM: You offer daycare as well as overnight boarding, correct? And then grooming services as well?
HM: Walk me through if I were to bring my dog here for the weekend, kind of how that would go.
TD: Ok, so if you are a current client then you can schedule online. You have an online account that you can pay on your account, you can prepay, you can add a card, you can upload your documents, schedule your daycare, schedule your boarding. So, you’d schedule your boarding then you’d come in the day of boarding. We prefer before 2pm so they can get some time to romp and play and get some energy out before they go to bed for the night. We’ll get you all signed in and verify your information. We’ll give you a sheet detailing your camera access - so you know your login information. It’s a personal camera so only you can see your dog. We take the dog in and get them set up in their suite. Put their bed or blanket out - whatever you bring with you. Since we don’t have outdoor space, for boarders, we like to get them out to stretch their legs, get some fresh air. All of the dogs go outside anyway for relief breaks, but the boarders will get a good walk. We’ll hit the Rock Hall, Public Square. We’ll just go around, it’s pretty much up to the breed and how active they are, how much they can handle or want to handle. As winter started, we had a husky that boarded a bunch, he’s no stranger to the cold, and we got some good walking in. He was the best model ever, we got some great pictures. They play practically all day, they have rest times around their meals, and then in the evening we kind of wind down, do small activities, and they will go to their suites. We play spa music at night, and we use aromatherapy to facilitate relaxation and reduce anxiety. They wake up the next morning and get to do it all over again.
HM: Where in Cleveland is your favorite place to be?
TD: I find myself gravitating to Tremont a lot or the East Bank of the Flats. Just because the riverwalk is amazing, the views are amazing. The food is amazing. I love Bourbon Street Barrel Room.
HM: I was literally just there last night!
TD: Were you? You have to go to brunch. They have a shrimp creole omelet. So there’s like crawfish and shrimp and maybe even crab in an omelet. Their grits are amazing; they are so creamy. They have great biscuits. You have to do the Mary Levoe mimosa - it's a mimosa that has some kind of flavored vodka, a little bit of cranberry juice. And you won’t need too many of those!
HM: What are some of your other favorite places to eat in Cleveland?
TD: I have not much loyalty to any place. I guess I do frequent Bourbon Street for brunch. Trattoria on the Hill in Little Italy. Love their food, great chicken parmesan. Barrio’s tacos are awesome. Coastal Taco has great tacos too. The chicken and waffles at Punch Bowl Social are amazing. Those are probably my top.
HM: Where is your favorite place to take your dog in Cleveland?
TD: My dog just goes where I go, and she’s old now. She’ll be 11 in March so she's not doing a whole lot of romping or playing. We kind of just hangout, we’ll go for walks in the Metroparks or we will hit the riverwalk - it’s a great place to market too.