When Josie Jendro started the West Loop Dog Meet-Up Group four years ago, she was hoping to meet other dog lovers and business owners to network and build relationships. Little did she know that it would lead her to a new business that was dog-friendly and would help support Chicago’s growing animal rescue community.
West Loop Dog Meet-Up
When the meet-up started, Josie would book area dog-friendly venues for the group to meet and socialize including her Pug Mr. Big and her husband’s Rottweiler Diva. It was often difficult to find a group welcoming of both sized dogs. In this dog-friendly part of the city, the organization took off and started growing. Eventually, the West Loop Dog Meet-Up grew to over 600 members with 60 sponsors.
“As this organization grew more popular, I realized that it would be nice to have a set space for us to meet, network and have fun with our dogs,” says Jendro. “There were a couple of event spaces in our neighborhood that were doing well and I thought it would be a great idea to create a dog-friendly event space. Someplace were people could network, hold events and let their dogs off-leash.”
Chicago Party Animals is born
She found a former warehouse at 1133 West Fulton Market that had done duty as a freezer and a rooming house and gutted the location starting in January to build out her space. Now the neighborhood that boasts art galleries, cool restaurants and vintage markets is home to her new business – Chicago Party Animals. The off-leash dog venue, which has 2,500 square feet on the first floor and 2,000 in the basement, has really taken off. Chicago Party Animals opened in February and held its grand opening in March.
“Our Wednesday night Meet-up has now become Wagging Wednesday’s,” adds Jendro. “Around 20 gourmet dining trucks line up and down West Fulton Market and our dog catering partner Fido to Go brings goodies for the dogs. Several West Loop businesses have donated drinks and each week a different animal charity mans the bar and keeps the donations for their charity. Another table is set up so they can talk about their mission. The best part is that people may bring their dogs and let them socialize inside Chicago Party Animals.”
Unique party space
From day one, she has created Chicago Party Animals as something more than a regular venue. If an organization is a non-profit, they may rent the space for an event for $200. For-profit groups pay $200 per hour to rent the space, but Jendro donates 25% of the proceeds to charity.
The venue has hosted a Senior Prom for Friend of Chicago Animal Care and Control (FCACC), a Chicks for Pits networking event and several other events for animal welfare organizations. There’s a vintage clothing show on tap, a CPR class, training classes for various dog groups, even a bar mitzvah. Jendro is also considering setting up a Speed-dating event where a dog and his or her favorite person will both be able to participate.
“This venture has allowed us to take the meet-up to a whole new level,” adds Jendro. “We network with many more people and help out a lot of local animal charities as well. My busy day lately has been Thursdays as I follow up with all the other animal organizations that want to be part of Wagging Wednesdays.”
Jendro has joined forces with several other dog-focused businesses – Fido to Go (gourmet dog treat truck), Canine Concierge and Fetch Photography. Each week Wagging Wednesdays continues to draw more people and she continues to tap into the network of businesses she’s built through the dog meet-up. Information about the venue may be found on their website, Facebook, Meet-up and on Twitter.
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