Grand Rapids area’s first indoor dog park aims for fall opening

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A key piece of the plan to open Michigan’s first indoor dog park near Grand Rapids has fallen into place.

Last week, the Plainfield Township reviewed proposals from two developers hoping to land its last available liquor license. The board voted to award the license to The Pack Indoor Dog Park.

“It’s huge,” said Joelle Wrona, co-owner of The Pack. “We’re super excited about that.”

The recommendation now goes to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for review and approval.

Wrona and her daughter, co-owner Raechel Macqueen, say it’s a relief to secure the liquor license. Serving alcoholic drinks at The Pack was always part of their vision for the indoor dog park, but purchasing a liquor license from a shuttered business for tens of thousands of dollars wasn’t a budget possibility.

INDOOR DOG PARK TAKES SHAPE

The bones to the new dog-friendly oasis are now visible to passersby on West River Drive after a monthslong delay in construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(A July 17, 2020 photo shows construction progress on The Pack Indoor Dog Park on West River Drive NE in Plainfield Township.)

The 10,000 square-foot facility will feature bars overlooking a dog play area where pets will be grouped together based on personality, with the help of movable fencing.

The business also includes a restaurant, workspace with free WiFi, patio for adults and their pets to unwind, and a small boutique store to purchase pet necessities.

(A rendering of The Pack Indoor Dog Park, slated to open on West River Drive in Plainfield Township in 2020. Image courtesy: The Pack Indoor Dog Park)

While construction on The Pack recently restarted, it stalled again for an unforeseen infrastructure issue. Nonetheless, Wrona says her family has been keeping the challenges in perspective.

“Obviously, we were bummed, but there were more serious issues for other people,” she said.

Wrona says there’s a silver lining to the delay: if all goes as planned now, the dog park should open in October when her ice cream shop is winding down for the season, giving her more time to focus on the new business.

(A July 17, 2020 photo shows construction progress on The Pack Indoor Dog Park on West River Drive NE in Plainfield Township.)

ON THE MENU

The Pack’s owners are putting the finishing touches on the menu, which will include 12-inch pizzas with traditional topping options, a platter of fried foods, a board of French fries with a variety of dipping sauces, hummus and pita and pretzel bites seasoned with salt or cinnamon and sugar.

All of the foods will come with dog names like “The Greyhound” and “The Golden.” There’s even a “Puppy Menu” for kids.

The Pack will also offer coffee, breakfast sandwiches and bagels to-go in the morning to entice owners dropping off their pets at day care. Visitors can order online ahead of time to streamline the process.

Wrona says they’re still working on what alcoholic drinks are allowed, but plan to offer beer, wine, seltzers and pre-made cocktails.

WELCOMING WORKERS, CUSTOMERS

While The Pack isn’t hiring workers or signing up members just yet, demand is already building.

“There’s been a ton of interest,” said co-owner Raechel Macqueen. “I think with COVID, people are just so antsy to go out and just do something.”

Some of that interest may be driven by work changes prompted by the pandemic. With more people working remotely, The Pack offers dog owners a chance to catch up on projects using the facility’s free WiFi while their dogs play.

(A rendering of The Pack Indoor Dog Park, slated to open on West River Drive in Plainfield Township in 2020. Image courtesy: The Pack Indoor Dog Park)

The Pack’s owners plan to hire about 10 people to help run the family-owned business. While positions will mostly be part-time, the owners say they’ll focus on investing in employees through training and promoting from within.

Workers will be cross-trained so they can take shifts in the kitchen, at the front desk or in the dog play areas. The owners say the goal is to avoid exhausting employees since handling dogs can be strenuous.

Currently, the dog park owners are connecting with a local dog trainer who will teach staff. The dog trainer is also crafting a plan for creating balanced dog play groups to prevent overexertion.

COVID-19 CHANGES

While a lot may change in the coming months, The Pack’s owners are keeping a close eye on state health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, with plans to follow current protocols when they open.

“Things are changing so rapidly, there’s no real way to plan,” said Macqueen.

Because the indoor dog park is designed to be open-concept, its owners are not anticipating any major changes to the original building layout.

(A rendering of The Pack Indoor Dog Park, slated to open on West River Drive in Plainfield Township in 2020. Image courtesy: The Pack Indoor Dog Park)

They are planning for social distancing, extra cleaning between customers, requiring all staff to wear face masks and possibly designating entrance and exit-only areas to reduce close encounters.

The building’s current capacity is 100 people. If capacity restrictions are in place when The Pack opens, its owners say they may temporarily use a reservation system to limit the number of people allowed inside and institute curbside drop-offs and pickups for food orders and dogs enrolled in day care.

“Safety is going to be our biggest concern for employees, customers and the dogs. If we need to start off a little slower… then we’ll do that,” said Wrona.

The owners are also considering outside heaters for the patio to encourage adults to enjoy drinks outdoors with their dogs as temperatures drop. Children and food will not be allowed on the patio.

The Pack Indoor Dog Park will be open daily for play, with dog day care limited to weekdays.

(A July 17, 2020 photo shows construction progress on The Pack Indoor Dog Park on West River Drive NE in Plainfield Township.)

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