In Mount Airy, this commercial strip has gone to the dogs, but in a good way
A business owner who grew up in the neighborhood opens her dog-walking and pet-sitting business on Germantown Avenue
A RED, antique-looking vending machine full of dog treats is posted outside Queenie's Pets in Mount Airy. A bowl of water is nearby.
The store's owner, Adina Silberstein, started Queenie's, a dog-walking and pet-sitting service, 10 years ago as a home-based business with just one employee.
Early last year, the Mount Airy native moved her business, now with 17 employees, to a large but cozy storefront at Germantown and Mount Airy Avenues. She had dreamed of this spot for years.
"I knew this location was where I wanted to be," said Silberstein. "It's next door to McMenamin's [Tavern]. It's in the heart of my neighborhood. It's a space where you can see and be seen."
But it's not a doggy day-care at the store. Her employees care for pets from clients' homes.
Pet care was a $53 million industry last year, she said. That's not counting veterinary care.
More pet owners are no longer relying on the teenager next door to walk their dogs.
"Our culture has shifted, where our pets are more like family members," Silberstein, 40, said.
"We are caring for them and looking for caregivers often in the same manner in which we look for care for a child."
Silberstein's employees must be 21 or older. They not only have to pass criminal background checks, but are trained by certified pet and dog trainers to spot potential health problems.
She also pays employees a livable wage of about $15 an hour, she said: "It's an alternative career for people who love animals and being outdoors."
Silberstein had 60 clients just three months after starting her business in 2006.
Today, there are 400 clients, and her employees conduct about 120 home visits daily to walk dogs or feed and care for cats, rabbits, turtles, ferrets, exotic birds, and other pets.
The growth of Queenie's Pets wasn't just happenstance.
Silberstein is one of 251 Philadelphia business owners who have graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Community College of Philadelphia.
The 10KSB program, as it is known, started three years ago, said Margaret Berger Bradley, the executive director of the program at CCP until this week.
Through the program, business owners get an education, expert advice, networking, and sometimes access to business loans.
It has been described as a mini-M.B.A., where owners learn about accounting, financial reporting, and writing business plans.
"One of our owners said he was trained as an architect, but he was never trained to run his own business," Bradley said.
Silberstein said of 10,000 Small Businesses: "It took my success and kicked it into high gear.
"It gave me this enormous access to all these other entrepreneurs who were having some of the same challenges I was having despite being in different industries."
After completing the program in April 2014, Silberstein moved from her home-office to the store in February 2015.
Philadelphia has a great record of people starting small businesses, said John Grady, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which teamed with CCP and the city to bring the program here. But the region lags in the businesses' rate of growth.
"There's a lack of support for these businesses . . . as they're growing." he said. The program is intended to provide that support.
Silberstein said she gained a lot from the education and networking at 10KSB.
The Central High School graduate earned a degree in anthropology and linguistics from American University. After passing on working in politics, she tried teaching in New Orleans before coming home to Mount Airy.
"I'm passionate that animals receive excellent care from highly trained, highly educated staff," she said.