By B.C. Manion
When Ilene and Del Aitchison opened the DogShirtStore in August, they knew the 700-square-foot space they moved into wouldn’t be large enough to meet their long-term needs, but they wanted to get into the Tropical Village Plaza.
They knew that The Breakfast Nook in the plaza attracted lots of traffic and they wanted to be near the popular restaurant.
The couple expects to be in a new space by the middle of November. It won’t be next to the Breakfast Nook, but the shop will have larger quarters – a 1,200-square-foot space, just a few suites down. Their shop’s new home will be Suite H of 1532 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., just off US 41, between County Line Road and SR 54.
DogShirtStore needs a larger space because it is adding a pet groomer. It also is retaining a photographer, who will be available by appointment and will work special events.
There’s no hiding the shop owners’ affection for their three miniature schnauzers — Lili, Ivie and Trooper. The dogs’ photographs are on proud display in the store.
The shop owners figure others are similarly smitten by their pets and the shop sells lots of items to express that kind of affection.
There are canine treats: ginger pup hearts, pizza teddy bears, doggie donuts and bow wownies. There are doggie diaper bags and dog toys.
The shop offers custom-made T-shirts – allowing patrons to pick out whatever kind of design that they want and have it applied to whatever kind of shirt they choose.
It also offers a number of T-shirts, ball caps and bumper stickers bearing catchy phrases coined by shop owners.
“Get a long, little doggie. Dachshund,” says one bumper sticker that shows the image of a Dachshund. “The Therapy Dog will see you now,” says another.
“In Dog We Trust (Humans? Not so much)” reads one T-shirt. And, in a tip of the hat to feline fanciers, another T-shirt reads: “My husband said it was him or the cats. Guess I’ll need a lawn service.”
Coming up with original ideas is the fun part, Del said. “I love it when people come into the store and just laugh.”
Ilene and Del had never envisioned themselves as owners of a pet accessory shop.
They began heading down that path three years ago, when they set up an online custom T-shirt business.
That business evolved from a T-shirt that Del had designed and Ilene had worn to a fly ball tournament. There aren’t many shirts that cater to that market, Ilene said.
When people saw her shirt, it drew rave reviews and she and Del decided to begin designing, making and selling T-shirts.
At first, it was just a business they carted around to different shows. Then it branched into an online company.
Along the way, Ilene got laid off from a job where she’d work for 13 years and then she got sick. Del quit his job as a graphic artist to take care of her.
Meanwhile, the demand for their custom-made shirts kept growing. So, they decided to branch out and open up their own shop, which opened on the same day as the East-West Animal Hospital, which is in the same plaza.
Besides selling retail items, the store also offers dog-training classes, led by Paula Salter. The shop also raises money for some animal support groups by donating a portion of its proceeds from specifically designated items.
For operating hours and to find out more about items available at DogShirtStore, call (813) 428-6999 or go to www.DogShirtStore.com.
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