Starting a new business at the beginning of a world-wide pandemic might not seem like the most opportune time-but necessity is often the mother of invention.
Cleve Fisher of Roanoke owns a catering company and was facing a number of cancellations beginning in March due to COVID-19. That forced him and his wife, Marsha, to look for a way to replace the revenue. . .and The Barkery was born.
“Starting anything new, especially a product/service that is unique to the area, during an economic downturn was definitely a risk. However, we were confident dog owners would go for it because the cookies and pup cakes are healthy and inexpensive”, says Cleve Fisher.
There are several treat businesses currently operating in the Roanoke Valley but according to Fisher, what makes his business different from the others is his use of fresh spent grains from local breweries as part of the ingredients.
“Most of their spent grains go to farmers to feed livestock. The amount we use is a small portion of what a batch of beer produces and what the farmers take.”
He had an idea for the business after visiting companies in North Carolina and California a couple of years ago. But at that time he was thinking of using the spent grains to make granola bars for humans.
“The catering business really took off in 2018 and 2019 so the idea was put on the back burner until Covid-19 affected the business.”
Fisher continues, “Our Golden Retriever has had some health issues the last two years and Angels of Assisi (rescue group in Roanoke) has always taken great care of her in addition to our tripod rescue we got from there.
When COVID-19 started affecting the catering business, we decided to start making the spent grain dog cookies vs. human granola bars and really wanted to give something back to Angels of Assisi.”
He says there’s more in it for the brewery than just getting rid of their spent grains.
“We also recognize the brewery which provided us with the grains when we deliver a profit percentage check to Angels of Assisi.”
The treats are all-natural with no preservatives, and the fresh spent grains are usually still warm-straight from the local breweries’ mash tun-when they get to the LEAP kitchen (a commercial kitchen and food business incubator space) on Patterson Avenue in Roanoke.
“We offer two flavors of cookies (peanut butter, banana, and honey and maple, bacon, and pumpkin). The cookies sell for $8 a bag or two for $15. We also produce one flavor of pup cake (peanut butter and carrot). These are two for $7 in one package.”
The Barkery will soon produce a variety for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
“We are partnering with a local brewery which produces a gluten-free beer so we will use gluten-free spent grains to make a cookie flavor for dogs with dietary issues. We think one ingredient will be dried cranberries.”
Fisher is test baking the gluten-free option this week.
The Barkery’s cookies and pup cakes are for sale at Barkley & Rover in Salem. Fisher is in discussion with a retail shop in Southwest Roanoke County and two local breweries to carry the items as well. You can check out their website and also order on the company’s Facebook page.
The Barkery delivers to homes in the Roanoke Valley and ships out of state. And Fisher says to look for them at local festivals once things return to normal.