JP Pets: Polka Dog provides niche spot in food market

June 21, 2013
By
(Gazette Photo by Peter Shanley) Polka Dog manager Julia Ann Culkin and employee Sarah James holding the store cat Persephone.

(Gazette Photo by Peter Shanley) Polka Dog manager Julia Ann Culkin and employee Sarah James holding the store cat Persephone.

Some owners like to pamper their dogs with the finest of everything. If you fall under that category, you might want to check out Polka Dog Bakery at 42 South St., which sells high-grade food and a variety of unusual treats, such as pig hearts.

“We are very special. We are very unique,” said Polka Dog manager Julia Ann Culkin.

She added, “People treat their dogs like kids. We help them spoil their dogs.”

The treats, placed in large glass jars, are lined around a chest-high counter in the middle of the store. Culkin referred to the setup as a “penny candy shtick.” The treats range from the usual to the highly unusual, including Atlantic cod skin wraps, elk jerky, venison sticks, squid sticks, pig hearts and duck and cow feet. Polka Dog bakes some of its treats, while others are bought from manufacturers, mostly in the United States, said Culkin.

“The duck feet are very popular. You have to pretty good with anatomy to work here,” said Culkin.

She said that the dogs are “very well behaved” when they come in the store, kidding that not a lot is shoplifted by them.

While the Gazette was interviewing Culkin, a customer walked in to purchase a cow femur bone that was the size of a man’s forearm. The treat is fittingly nicknamed “Dino,” the name of the dinosaur that acts like a dog in the 1960s cartoon “The Flintstones.”

Polka Dog also sells high-quality food that does not have any corn or filler, said Culkin. The food selection includes salmon, rabbit, pheasant, lamb and duck. Culkin said Polka Dog trends to the all-natural approach and makes sure to have the right type of food for dogs that have allergies.

Culkin, who has worked at the store for two years, said that like Jamaica Plain, customers at Polka Dog are a “very diverse type of people.” She said is always interested in talking to the customers to learn how they got their dog, whether it’s through adoption, a breeder or was found.

“Everyone has a different story,” said Culkin.

She said she tries to give owners “honest advice” for the dogs, noting that the most expensive is not always the best.

“Happy and healthy is our goal,” said Culkin.

Polka Dog also sells cat food. Culkin said that some of the treats are liked by cats, the most popular being the tilapia jerky, a type of fish.

Polka Dog opened in Jamaica Plain four years ago, said Culkin. It is one of two retail locations in the city, the other being Polka Dog’s flagship store in the South End. Culkin said Polka Dog plans to expand to Lynnfield and Chestnut Hill later this year.

For more information, visit polkadog.com or call 617-522-1931.