A former communications salesman left the family business to launch a Lakeside enterprise that caters to customers of the furry variety.
Preston Cottrell Jr. plans to open Happy Camper Pet Lodge, a pet grooming and boarding service for cats and dogs, in late January. The business is setting up shop in 3,000 square feet at 7300 Impala Dr.
Cottrell, 29, worked for his father’s company, Cottrell Communications, for three years until it was sold in December 2012. The deal left the telecom company’s Impala Drive space vacant.
Not having much luck finding a job and with his father struggling to lease the freshly vacated offices, Cottrell decided to turn his passion for animals into a business.
“It’s a service-based business with good profit margins,” Cottrell said. “I’ve been volunteering with dogs off and on since I was 16.”
Cottrell has logged more than 200 volunteer hours with the Richmond SPCA and does long-term foster care for the Henrico Humane Society. He has three dogs of his own.
Cottrell would not say what it has cost to renovate the former warehouse and office space, but he said he’s using personal savings and getting help from two minority investors. Cottrell said he got most of his kennels for “pennies on the dollar” from a New York-based kennel that was remodeling.
In addition to basic kennels, Happy Camper also has luxury rooms, which include more comfortable bedding, walls to hang pictures on and televisions.
“It’s just something to make the dog feel at home rather than like he is at a kennel,” Cottrell said.
Luxury rooms cost $50 a night for dogs. Overnight stays in standard kennels cost $26 for a single dog. The space can fit between 40 and 45 dogs or cats.
In addition to grooming and lodging, Happy Camper will take animals on field trips. And in the dog-walking realm, Cottrell won’t just be competing with the neighbor’s kids.
Canine Adventure, a service that takes dogs on long hikes, launched about five years ago in Richmond. It expanded in September to Charlottesville.
Cottrell said he is hoping his business stands out because of his attentiveness. He plans to stay overnight with the dogs until he hires more help.
“We have a smaller environment and a much more homey touch,” Cottrell said. “It’s a personal service. I am going to make sure their pet is taken care of.”