K9 eden lures lucky dogs

Despite the recession, business booms at a Texas dog park.

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Dogs frolic at Unleashed
The lap of luxury
Artisanal treats for the dog - or dog lover - in your life.

(Fortune Small Business) -- Dallas has gone to the dogs. Who's to blame? Try Kelly and Cody Acree. The couple raised $10 million to build Unleashed Indoor Dog Parks, a canine paradise with 25,000 square feet of air-conditioned romping space that opened in March.

The Acrees came up with the business after failing to find a suitable local dog run for Lucas, their adopted Lab mix. "Municipal parks are lacking in a lot of respects, from seating to shade to pet owners not picking up after their dogs," says Kelly, 34.

Dog Fancy editor Susan Chaney sees parks like this taking off in intemperate climates. After all, what happens when triple-digit heat forces Fido to stay home? "A dog without enough exercise is like a toddler who hasn't been allowed to exercise," she observes. "You have a screaming meanie."

According to the Acrees, monthly revenues have reached $200,000 and continue to grow about 10% each month, which should make Unleashed profitable by the end of the year. They're planning two more facilities locally and hope to expand into Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

Unleashed offers Wi-Fi and a snack bar (for humans), plus a pet-supply store. Two managers and 23 hourly workers police and play with the guests. Dogs staying overnight can cuddle with employees in king-size beds. "I've lived in places that aren't that nice," says Dallas resident Kim Putnam, whose terrier-poodle mix, Paco, visits every week.

Even in a recession, Toni Formby, also of Dallas, says the service is worth every penny. She's on disability pay but forks over $7.50 three times a week so she can rest while Matilda, her wire fox terrier, frolics. "I don't eat out," she says. "So I can afford to do this."  To top of page

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