If you’re in Smilin’ Dog Bakery in Naples, odds are you’ll encounter a happy canine. Usually it’s Linus, the four-year-old standard poodle of owner Denise Pavlovich—but whether it’s him or a guest, it’s hard not being a happy dog when you’re in a store filled with treats.
For the last seven years, Smilin’ Dog Bakery has been the purveyor of organic treats whipped up in the back of the store; goodies including the popular Chicken Apple Chewies, which contain exactly that—apples and chicken. “I always focus on what’s healthy,” Pavlovich says.
Before buying the shop, Pavlovich had toyed at home with making her own dog food. So much of what’s out there commercially is like reading riddles in the ingredient list, she said. But much as they are for a human, simple recipes with fresh, organic ingredients can be healthful for a dog.
She arrived in Naples after a career teaching school in Alabama. Her son had come across the shop as owner Teresa Hoover was looking to sell. Pavlovich bought the place in May 2020. “I just fell in love with the store,” she says. “She had built a good business.”
It already had a loyal customer base and a cookbook of recipes. She decided to stay the course, continue the popular treats and build up the custom doggie cake business. It was her first time running a company, so she had to not just brush up on business basics but also know the products inside and out. After all, dog owners like her can be particular about what they’re serving.
Most treats are made in-house by Pavlovich or one of her employees, from simple recipes with straightforward ingredient lists. The most popular ones are chicken based; she goes through about 160 pounds of chicken per week.
The online operation does well, too, due to out-of-town customers who want to stay connected. Her products are sold in other shops locally and she hopes to expand more in Southwest Florida. Her biggest joy: The people and pets who come in the store.
“You get to see so many happy dogs,” Pavlovich says. “If the dogs are happy, you know the owners are happy.”