New owners take over Pines Boarding Kennel
Since November 17, 1989, Pines Boarding Kennel has been in continuous operation. Mark and Barb Mattke have nearly 30 years of service, thousands of customers, several renovations and business expansions under their belt but, sadly, the couple will be stepping aside at the end of October as Marcie Culver, J.R. Schmidt and Tina Wehrs of Marcie’s Pet Spa take over ownership.
When the Mattkes first decided they were going to open a pet boarding business, people told them they wouldn’t make it because it’s a hard business to jump into. A local vet told them that numerous people had taken on the endeavor and did not succeed.
Fortunately, they did not listen, “We put a sign up that said, ‘coming soon’ and we had people pulling in the driveway before the building was ever finished,” Barb said. “We opened it because we were military and every time we would move somewhere there was no place for us to leave our dog. People would ask us to babysit their dogs and I thought there’s a market for that here and there was.”
In November 1988, Mark retired as a Master Sergeant from the United States Army and they officially opened for business on Thanksgiving weekend in 1989 primarily as a boarder.
“When we opened we had instant business,” Mark said.
Over the years, the Mattkes have cared for a wide variety of beloved family pets and it wasn’t until 2009 that Mark began grooming.
“We had tried to get a groomer here and that was a nightmare so I told Barb, ‘I think I’m just going to go to grooming school. I’m good with my hands.’ So, I went to grooming school and started grooming dogs,” Mark said, adding he was 50-years-old when he enrolled. “We groomed primarily for our boarding customers. It was very seldom that I would take someone off the street but when I did they never went away. They started boarding with us and never went away.”
Mark added he absolutely loves dogs and in all that time of grooming, he has never been bit by any dog, ever.
“We’ve watched two and three generations of dogs that families have had,” Barb said. “We’ve had some unique experiences.”
Mark and Barb put the business up for sale a few years ago when there son Dalton became ill and they wanted to focus their attention on his medical care but they just weren’t sure selling was what they wanted to do so they took it off the market.
“One of us always had to be here and we didn’t hire employees we just ran it ourselves. When Dalton got ill, we started cutting way back on our clientele,” Barb explained. “We hated to do it because we had so many good customers but we just couldn’t physically do it anymore.”
Barb and Dalton had to live in Rochester, MN for months in order for Dalton to have a bone marrow transplant. After he passed away in January, Mark and Barb decided they couldn’t do the work anymore when Mark was diagnosed with leukemia.
Barb reached out to Culver earlier this fall giving Marcie’s the first option to buy them out after learning that Marcie’s had been looking to expand its business in the area.
“We needed an overflow and we needed it to be in Sparta. For two years we’ve needed this. We didn’t want to build from new and this is out in the country with almost five acres out here, Culver said. “We bought a few pieces of land and honestly I never felt good about anything. This is everything that I’ve wanted. When we came out here that day, we left knowing this was going to be ours. We’re just turning the key on a business that’s already been here and has been so successful for so many years. There is not a negative thing about this transition.”
According to Mark, Pines Kennel is the only boarding establishment in Sparta, aside from a few local veterinarians. The closest boarding business is Marcie’s Pet Spa in West Salem.
Not only did the transition make sense business wise, but the group formed an immediate bond. Without hesitation, Culver, Wehrs and Schmidt bought Pines Kennel.
Marcie’s will continue to board and it will be bringing in three full time groomers. According to Culver, there isn’t much about the business that will be changed.
“Our connection with them has become more important than this sale. We just bonded with them instantly,” Culver said. “I’m really busy but I’ll stop everything for them. I’ve lost my parents in the last 10 years and they’ve just sort of filled that role for me.”
“We’ve sat here three or four nights talking about the kennel and we’ve never told the same story twice,” Mark added. “We’ll sit here for three to four hours at a time and all we talk about is dogs.”
Though there is sadness surrounding the departure of Mark and Barb, for the time being, their home is filled with the laughter from inside jokes that have already formulated amongst the group in just a matter of months.
“I feel honored that they’ve chosen us because we are a lot like them,” Marcie said. “We spend a lot of time with our clients and we have a lot of personality and I think it’s cool that we can transition this business to that and make it so much like theirs.”