Coco’s Pet Center Returns to Chestertown
By Ellen Uzelac
When Heide Hood first visited Chestertown, she felt a calm come over her.
“The whole place spoke to me. It was quiet, peaceful, relaxing. I loved the town and the community and wanted to be a part of it,” she says. “Coco’s was the way to do that.”
Hood, an IT consultant, opened Coco’s Pet Center at 335 High St. in July. Yep, in the midst of a pandemic. And, nope, you’re not cuckoo if you’re remembering a Coco’s in that same space six years ago. This is the second iteration of the pet shop. Think of it as Coco’s 2.0.
Hood operated Coco’s – named for her late chiweenie, a Chihuahua-Dachshund mix – for about a year six years ago but at the time she was living in Columbia, commuting back and forth to Chestertown, and working a traditional job. The model wasn’t sustainable.
When the storefront – and the apartment above it – became available this summer, Hood jumped.
“I just didn’t have the time and attention to devote last time. Everything’s different now. As I thought about it, it just made sense to bring it back. And living locally four days a week is a gamechanger,” she says.
What’s Coco’s Pet Center About?
Hood’s goal: to create a fun shop with treats for pets and people. Some of the products, like Lucky Dog Treats, collars and leashes, are locally made. Store bestsellers include durable dog toys and catnip joints. And what’s not to like about doggie cake mix, maple bacon ice cream and bacon-flavored hemp oil that calms and comforts your pooch?
The shop, which is pet-friendly, also offers in-store pet sitting for visitors who might want to grab a meal, shop downtown, or explore the area by kayak or bike.
Over the fall, Hood plans to expand the offering with services that include partnerships with a vet, groomer and dog walker. Coming soon: pet birthday parties and informational Zoom meetings with experts on topics such as pet care in cold weather. She also wants to launch a subscription service that would feature locally crafted treats and toys.
“We’re not looking to compete with Chewy or BarkBox or other stores in the area,” she says. “The aim is to carve out a niche that’s all ours.”
The Question: Opening a New Store During a Pandemic
“As for the pandemic, I knew going in that there was a likelihood Maryland would shut down again, but I also felt it was worth the risk. The timing for me personally outweighed the fact that there was a pandemic.”
And, according to Hood, the pandemic has created an unexpected silver lining: regional tourism.
“What I’m seeing this time, which is much, much different, is local tourism. We are seeing day and weekend tripping from a two- to three-hour drive radius. We’re seeing Philadelphia. We’re seeing New Jersey. We’re seeing Delaware. We’re seeing Virginia. People don’t want to fly but they’re still looking for something fun to do,” adds Hood. “That fun is here. That fun is Chestertown.”
About Coco’s: The shop is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11-4, Fridays from 10-5, Saturdays from 9-5, and Sundays from 11-3. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Website: www.cocospetcenter.com. You can also follow Coco’s Pet Center on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Chestertown freelance journalist Ellen Uzelac is a former West Coast bureau chief and national correspondent for The Baltimore Sun.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column