Polka Dog Bakery Serves Up Canine Confections
The South Street shop's owner Julia Culkin talks about the love behind the treats at Polka Dog Bakery.
Rows and rows of dog treats wrap around the center counter of Polka Dog Bakery—from elk antlers and venison sticks to peanut butter medley treats and buffalo taffy; it’s like a penny candy store for dogs.
The South Street shop has been serving up healthy canine confections for three years (and its South End predecessor for more than a decade), including homemade signature treats bearing the face of the store’s one-eyed boxer mascot, Pearl. Rescued as a stray outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, she inspired her owners to bake her gourmet treats and ultimately open the shop. In addition to baked goods, the store also carries grooming products, toys, supplements, and clothing.
Local felines shouldn’t feel left out. Percy, Polka Dog’s rather portly resident cat, can be found lounging around the shop, which is also stocked with plenty of cat products.
Julia Culkin, manager of the JP store, gave a tour of Polka Dog Bakery and a taste of some carob kisses and yogurt drops (yes, there are treats even humans can enjoy), and gushed about her love for four-legged friends.
How did you come to work here?
I worked at larger pet food stores for a short period of time. I came here as a regular employee, and I was promoted by my bosses, who are wonderful people. We’re a family here. I’m the manager but we all look to each other for advice and to create the best retail experience possible for our customers. If we have healthy pets and happy pets, we have happy people. Pets are people’s children and we should treat them as such.
What’s the philosophy of Polka Dog and how does it play out?
Our goal here is to make every dog health and happy. We sell Polka Dot brand cookies, which are handmade. We sell biscuits and a line of bowls as well that are all healthy: corn-free, soy-free, wheat-free. We have options for dogs with special needs like allergies. We try to only sell more reputable brands dog food and cat food as well. It’s hard to say what’s good and what’s bad; it’s not necessarily that the most expensive is best. Our policy is honesty so whatever food your dog does best on is the best.
How are you involved in the community?
We try to get the community involved. We’re lucky because the MSPCA-Angell [Animal Medical Center] and the JP Animal Clinic are nearby. There are a lot of animal supporters here in general. We’re obviously not veterinarians, but try to give the best advice on health and food. We’re really like a family here so we want to give back to our customers and their best friends the way they give to us. And we’re all animal lovers here, too. You don’t have to have pets to work here but you definitely have to be an animal lover.
What’s so special about the homemade Polka Dog treats?
They’re made with care. They were made for Pearl. They were made out of love for a dog that was special [to the founders] and made for dogs generations from now. And they’re healthy. Pearl is unfortunately not with us today. I never got to meet her. But she was an inspiration and the reason we’re here today and trying to make all the dogs in JP and the South End happy and healthy.
Any trends for dog breeds in JP?
There are a lot of pit mixes, and a lot pugs, golden retrievers, and labs. There are also a lot of bulldogs, French and English.
Polka Dog Bakery is at 42 South Street.