3 Words: American Kennel Club
Steve’s breakdown: That’s who’s trying to corner the market in doggie day care. Manhattan is their main market now but we see this spreading to every city so if you’re a dog person, AKC Canine Retreat is the client. James Tysseling is the chief operating officer.
NEW YORK, NY: The next big real estate deals are going to the dogs. With nearly half a million canines in New York City — and the canine services industry totaling an estimated $70 billion market in the United States — dogs are big business. The American Kennel Club is seizing the moment locally with an eye on what busy New Yorkers need most: doggie day care.
To leap paws-first into the lucrative Manhattan market, its venture, AKC Canine Retreat, has already purchased five locations from Spot Canine Club as well as the dog-jogging — not walking — service, Running Paws. Both Spot and Running Paws will be rebranded under the AKC umbrella.
A brand-new, 4,000-square-foot AKC Canine Retreat opened at the Durst Organization’s pyramidal rental, Via 57 West.
AKC also has residents-only clubs at both Mercedes House and Sky, luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s far West Side. Additional AKC Canine Retreats are in Chelsea and Tribeca along with the Upper East and Upper West Sides — all dog-crazy residential areas.
“All combined, we are [serving] 500 dogs a day in Manhattan,” says James Tysseling, chief operating officer of AKC Pet Care.The largest space is a 10,000-square-foot play area at Silverstein Properties’ Silver Towers at 610-620 W. 42nd St. This serves residents, as well as those living in Silverstein’s nearby River Place towers.
AKC Canine Retreats have paw-safe flooring and special air filtration systems. They even provide a designated space for each dog — not a cage, but a low-walled pen connected to the central play area — where pooches can nap.
This space becomes the dog’s own room for the day — and night if it’s a sleepover — and is disinfected between stays.
“We have play sets with ramps and hard plastic items that are colorful and give them something to run around and chase through and jump off,” says Tysseling, adding that they are all easily sterilized.
And, as with any luxe amenity, ambience is everything. Music and lighting are also varied throughout the day and evening to help pups regulate their energy. The dogs are rotated through the play space, depending on their individual needs and the group dynamics.
Staffers “are highly trained as to canine behavior and to recognize happy dogs versus dogs that are annoyed versus those that are tired,” Tysseling says.
Tysseling may be the ideal canine COO: He spent 30 years in hospitality for humans, including managing the Hudson Valley’s massive Mohonk Mountain House. But he’s also a dog lover, a basset hound breeder and a dog show judge who met his wife on the circuit.
During an earlier career break, Tysseling managed the expansion of PetSmart’s in-store pet hotels to 150 locations nationwide.
Competing in the doggie-day care arena are several other local companies. The largest, Biscuits & Bath, has a dozen locations and includes services such after-surgery care. PetSmart, too, is also pivoting to become competitive in the Manhattan market, opening a 16,280-square-foot flagship in the base of 10 Madison Square West, a luxury condominium on the corner of Broadway and West 24th Street.
Indeed, the pricing structure for these facilities is similar to what parents pay for a posh preschool: At $55 a day for non-member dog care at AKC Canine Retreat properties (members get discounts), a full year of visits could add up to a whopping $20,075. A discounted unlimited membership is $8,085 per year paid upfront.As Steven Soutendijk, executive managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, observes, “Everyone spends as much on their dogs as their kids — and everyone needs their dogs to be walked.”
Grooming, walking, overnighters and special puppy socializations — all extra add-on services — keep the cash registers ringing.
For brokers looking to work in this market, familiarity in the pet space is a plus. Rich Kave of Lee & Associates NYC, who negotiated the AKC deal with Durst at Via, has been active in the submarket for over a decade. A dozen years ago, Kave found a location for Running Paws, the then-new pet-jogging concept. He has since worked with other doggie-day care companies in their quests to serve Manhattan’s pup parents.
Naturally, the bigger the space, the more dogs that can be housed and the more services that can be provided. But ground-floor retail spots come at a premium, Kave says, and most doggie dorms require spreads of 3,500 to 5,000 square feet. Additionally, adjacent outdoor spaces are hard to find. “Every material has to be thought out,” Kave says of such facilities. “There has to be enough room to separate the large dogs from the small ones. There’s a warm fuzzy science to it.”