You might wonder how a store catering to high-end treats, toys and sweaters for dogs can survive in a small town such as South Haven.
It’s no surprise to Roxanne Leder and her staff at Decadent Dogs.
“What we have found is dogs are part of a person’s family,” said Leder, a dog lover herself whose loyal pooch, Sandy, can be found at her side inside the store. “They’re the ones who greet us at the door when we come home from work. They give unconditional love.”
Dog owners’ affection for their pets has led to Decadent Dogs becoming one of downtown South Haven’s favorite retail shops over the years.
Its popularity led Leder to make the decision in late 2022 to relocate her business from its original location at 505 Phoenix St. to a larger location at 523 Phoenix St.
In January, the store re-opened in the former Phoenix Street Cafe, another popular downtown establishment, which has relocated to 259 Broadway Ave., and rebranded its name as Phoenix Street on Broadway.
“We needed a bigger space,” said Kendra Kingsbury, manager for Decadent Dogs.
“The dogs now have more room to roam,” Leder said.
Dogs allowed in a retail establishment?
Of course, especially when you come to Decadent Dogs. Leder and her staff make a point of encouraging pet owners to bring in their furry friends.
“Some days we see 60 dogs or more,” Kingsbury said. “People are tickled when we guess the breed of their dogs.” Customers are also tickled if the store staff remembers their pet’s name.
“They love it when we remember their dog’s names,” Kingsbury said. “Sometimes we remember the dog’s name more than the customer’s name, but we always remember their faces.”
Getting to know customers and their dogs is part of the secret behind the success of the store, which is one of the few stores of its kind in West Michigan, according to Leder.
“These days, younger people are having fewer kids,” Leder said. “More people are retiring. Pets have become part of their family. People feel good if they do something nice for their pets.”
Customers who come into Decadent Dogs don’t have to look far to choose items to please their pups, or even themselves, as pet owners.
Bakery-style gourmet cookie treats are displayed at the front counter. A display wall nearby showcases a wide variety of dog toys. Harnesses, leashes, food bowls and sweaters, specially made for a myriad of dog breeds, can be found in another display area, along with decorative pet blankets and dog neckerchiefs. There’s also items catering to pet lovers, such as keychains, towels, refrigerator magnets, Christmas ornaments, slippers and apparel – all specialized to reflect a customer’s favorite dog breed.
“We have so much fun choosing inventory,” Leder said. “This (high-end dog products) has become a big industry. We have way more products to choose from for inventory these days.”
One of the latest products is doggy beer in a can. It’s labeled and marketed as “Good Dog Dog Beer,” but people shouldn’t be alarmed. “It’s actually bone broth,” Kingsbury said.
Leder has owned Decadent Dogs for 12 years after purchasing the business from previous owner Cathy Thaler.
“When I moved to South Haven from Kalamazoo I wanted to open a business and was thinking of one specializing in Michigan-made products,” Leder said. “Cathy said her store was available and the numbers she showed me looked good.”
Being a dog-lover herself, Leder decided to work at Decadent Dogs for several weekends before becoming hooked into taking over the business.
“Do I love dogs enough to sell to dog owners?” she remembered thinking to herself at the time.
After several weekends of seeing Thaler’s business model of having store staff interact with dog owners and their pets, Leder bought the business.
“You love the person who loves the dog,” Leder said.
Leder has also come to love South Haven’s downtown community. She has been a staunch member and leader of the Downtown Association of South Haven over the years, helping to organize downtown festivals and events. One of her signature events is organizing the dog parades that take place each year during the fall and Christmas gatherings downtown. She also helped start the Giving Saturday event held during the spring months, downtown, where merchants agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds toward various non-profit groups.
“I moved to South Haven to be a part of this community,” she said. “It’s a great place to live, work and enjoy.”