It’s not exactly trash to treasure, but more like kitchen scraps to doggy snacks.
Like many families during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Dawn and Jason Gunnoe of Canal Winchester looked for ways to keep their kids engaged while spending most of their time at home.
So the Gunnoes adopted a puppy and decided to start baking dog treats made from overripe fruits and vegetables for their new furry friend.
“We were finding that we had a lot of stuff that wasn’t getting used and going past its prime, so we started incorporating that into our dog’s treats,” Dawn Gunnoe said. “It got to a point where the kids were saying, ‘Mom, this banana has a spot on it.’ Time to make the dog treats.”
Soon their adopted puppy, Pawson, had more treats than he could eat.
“I jokingly said, ‘Somebody should turn this into a business,’ and here we are,” Dawn Gunnoe said.
The Gunnoes officially launched the Pawson Dog Treat Co. out of their Franklin Street home on March 1, 2021.
Because of the expanding business, the family plans to move operations to 532 Main St. in Groveport, but no opening day has been determined, although Dawn Gunnoe said they hope to be working out of the new store by summer.
Pawson products can be purchased online at pawsondogtreatco.com and at 17 locations throughout the state, including 11 in central Ohio. Those retailers also can be found on the website.
The treats – for both dogs and cats – include Sit’run Chicken, Banana Pumpkin Puffs, Barkin’ Blueberry Oatmeal, Granny’s Apple Crisp and Breath Bustin’ Apple, Mint & Parsley, to name a few.
The “Beer” cheese treats – minus the alcohol – are made with spent grains from the Third Eye Brewing Co. in Sharonville near Cincinnati, where the treats are sold.
Even a hair salon in Canal Winchester, the Cactus Salon, sells the treats.
“We sell a ton of them there,” Dawn Gunnoe said. “Customers get their hair done and buy our dog treats.”
Prices generally range from $6 to $18, depending on the size of the bag, according to the company’s website.
“It’s kind of amazing to me what people will spend on their pets,” Jason Gunnoe said. “It’s definitely been a pleasant surprise.”
He knows much about commercial baking, having worked in the now-closed downtown Columbus Kroger bakery.
“A lot of the general rules and manufacturing regulations that we followed at the bakery translate directly into what we’re going to have to do in the new building,” he said. “I’ve been baking my whole life and incorporating all of that into this has been so useful.”
Following regulations has meant spending months testing recipes and creating the proper labels based on guidelines set by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The process involves sending samples to a lab for testing.
“If we opened a bakery for humans, it would’ve been way easier,” said Dawn Gunnoe, who has worked in animal welfare and met her husband at an animal shelter in Louisville, Kentucky.
The couple’s children, Harper and Bella, also are involved in the business. They help wash the silicone mats used to bake the treats and assist with packaging.
“I seal the bags most of the time,” Harper said, and Bella chimed in with her duties, saying she “dots” the bags to help differentiate sizes: 4 ounces, 8 ounces or one pound.
The kids also distribute test treats.
“We found (that) a lot of dogs who couldn’t eat treats love them,” Dawn Gunnoe said. “We’ve got dozens of neighborhood dogs, and the kids walk around with a dish of treats and let the dogs sample them.”
The Gunnoes pick up and sometimes purchase overripe produce from smaller “farmers market-type” stores and food pantries, they said. All of it otherwise would end up in a landfill.
Currently, 400 pounds of sweet potatoes are stored in their basement.
Other ingredients used in Pawson treats include pumpkins, apples and yellow squash.
“Basically, if it’s safe for dogs, we use it,” Dawn Gunnoe said.
To keep with the company’s eco-friendly theme, bags used for packaging are compostable and the treats are shipped in recycled boxes.
As the business grew, Dawn Gunnoe quit her part-time job as a volunteer director for a nonprofit that does bedroom makeovers for children with cancer.
Her husband continues to work full-time at a paint manufacturer.
“I never thought in a million years that this is where we were going to end up,” she said. “I honestly thought we would start a little Etsy shop to entertain us through the pandemic and that would be the end of it. Now it’s going to become our full-time gig.”