Kyle and Megan Casey with their dogs, Murphy, Cora and Myers, outside Paws & Pints, which opens on Thursday. PHOTO BELOW: More than 20,000 square feet of synthetic grass was used throughout Paws & Pints, including in these play areas for dogs that are boarded or take part in doggie day care. Photos by John Retzlaff

 

Midway through the pandemic, Kyle and Megan Casey thought seriously about shelving their dream to open Paws & Pints, a multilayered business catering to dogs and their own owners.

A developer with experience in transforming ideas into completed projects had backed out of the venture. The hospitality industry, upended by COVID, was struggling to return to pre-pandemic customer and revenue levels. Bankers were hesitant to lend to an unfamiliar entertainment venue during economic uncertainty.

"There definitely came a time when we looked in the mirror and said, ‘Are we crazy?’" said Kyle Casey, who with Megan is a founder and co-owner of Paws & Pints, a retreat for dogs and their owners that the couple began planning more than five years ago. "There was a lot of uncertainty in everything."

But a pop-up event held in October 2020 reinforced for the couple that their yearslong dream could become a reality.

"We threw a party in the middle of COVID and we pulled in 400 dogs and their owners," said Megan Casey, 35. "We looked at each other and we’re like ‘We are still onto something.’ "

The pandemic didn’t change the needs of dogs, the couple told themselves. The four-legged pets still needed exercise, exposure to other dogs, grooming and obedience training. In fact, with more people acquiring pets during the pandemic, a gathering place for dogs and their humans was needed even more, they believed.

"We were really down a couple times in this process … but we remained very motivated and it was all because of the dogs," said Kyle Casey, 36.

The couple kept pushing forward, and on Thursday their dream will become reality when Paws & Pints opens to the public.

7.2 acres of fun for dogs, humans

Paws & Pints is located on about 7.2 acres at 6218 Willowmere Drive in Des Moines. It includes off-leash outdoor and indoor dog parks with more than 20,000 square feet of synthetic grass, a bar and restaurant, day and overnight accommodations for dogs, grooming, a training facility, and a retail shop.

The venue’s focal point will be a 3.5-acre park with real grass and shade trees, walking path for humans, and play areas for dogs. The park includes an interactive splash pad, tractor tires for dogs to jump on or crawl under, a custom-made jungle gym, and a large concrete tunnel that's partially buried for dogs to climb on and run through. Colorful fire hydrants are scattered throughout the park.

After the developer backed away from the project, the Caseys connected with another group who also became partners in Paws & Pints. Matthew Gustafson and Jason Fielder, owners of Waukee-based JM Commercial Holdings LLC, have experience in commercial land development including project management, according to the company’s website.

Gustafson and Fielder contemplated becoming involved with the project prior to the pandemic but for various reasons didn’t, Gustafson said. In late 2020, they took a second look, he said.

Paws & Pints "seemed to fit what we’ve done in the past with other projects  synergizing an experience where you have everything at one stop: boarding, training, grooming, the food and beverage," Gustafson said. "As developers of commercial real estate, we wanted to a part of that. After some more meetings, we brought some money to the table as well."

Gustafson, Fielder and the Caseys share the same goals, Megan Casey said.

"We didn’t put as much work into building Disneyland here to only have one," she said. "They have the exact same mindset: Once this one is successfully running, where will Paws & Pints 2.0 be, and then Paws & Pints 3.0?"

Getting to opening day

Moving a new venture from conception to opening day is difficult in normal economic times. Creating an entertainment venue on undeveloped ground during a pandemic was even more challenging and stressful, Paws & Pints' owners said.

The project’s groundbreaking ceremony was held in May 2021 with the goal of opening the following May. Difficulties in getting supplies pushed the opening back twice. The building’s steel framework was ordered in February 2021 but didn’t arrive until December. Black fence that surrounds the outdoor playground took nearly six months to be delivered, arriving a week before opening day.

Some things still haven’t arrived. For instance, a computer chip needed to turn off the facility’s lights hasn’t yet arrived. A backup generator, ordered in March, won’t arrive until early 2023.

"The biggest headache was not getting materials delivered so we could open in May," Gustafson said. "It was just the circumstances of the world. … It was everything – steel, screws, windows."

The public has been nearly as eager for Paws & Pints to be completed as its operators. Over 210 memberships have been sold, even before the venue has opened its doors. (Memberships are not necessary to visit Paws & Pints.)


The Caseys have hired about 115 people to work at Paws & Pints, including groomers, dog caretakers, a chef, cooks, bartenders and wait staff. The couple held open interviews earlier in the summer at the Foundry in Valley Junction, during which more than 70 people attended in one week’s time.


Paws & Pints has attracted workers, in part, because of some of the benefits being provided. The company pays 75% of insurance premiums for employees who work 30 or more hours a week, Megan Casey said. Employees’ dogs are provided free memberships to the park and employees receive discounts on day care, lodging, grooming and at the retail store called Bonetique.

Imperial Canine Obedience, which had been in Ankeny, is now located in state-of-the-art space at Paws & Pints. A veterinary clinic is also planned, Kyle Casey said. A slew of events including live music and activities surrounding college football games are planned throughout the fall.

"COVID could have swallowed us – and it almost did," Kyle Casey said. "But we persevered with the help of a lot of people. And on [Thursday] we open."

PHOTOS ABOVE: Portions of about a dozen tractor tires were buried underground, leaving portions for dogs to crawl through or climb or jump over. Dogs can play in an indoor dog park without having to be leashed. The area includes a large-screen television 


VIEW PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO: To view a gallery of photos from Paws & Pints and a 360-degree video of the the outdoor dog park, click here.

More about Paws & Pints
ADDRESS: 6218 Willowmere Drive
OWNERS: Paws & Pints LLC, managed by Kyle and Megan Casey, and JM Commercial Holdings LLC
DEVELOPER: JM Commercial Holdings LLC
ARCHITECT: Slingshot Architect
CONTRACTOR: Downing Construction
WEBSITE: pawsandpintsdsm.com
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Do I have to be a member to visit Paws & Pints? No. Paws & Pints offers day passes for use of the dog parks. However, proof of vaccination is required for each dog that visits Paws & Pints and each dog will be screened for socialization.
Do I have to have a dog to visit Paws & Pints? No.
Are cats allowed? No.
Can company-sponsored or other events be held at Paws & Pints? Yes. So far more than 65 events, including bridal showers and company outings, have been booked at Paws & Pints’ private event space.
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