Three Dog Bakery gets new masters

05/07/2014 5:37 PM

05/07/2014 8:55 PM

Kansas City’s multimillion-dollar dog treat and dog food company has new owners.

Three Dog Bakery, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary June 21, has been acquired by a group of mostly local investors, led by Aziz Giga, Jeff Fromm and Ken Linge. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The new owners plan to start making a substantial investment in the company’s manufacturing facility on North Topping Avenue this week. The investment will improve technology and production processes, and increase capacity. It also will allow the company to manufacture new pet treats.

The ownership group also hopes to expand with more retail stores in current and new markets. The company sells its premium all-natural products in a corporate-owned store on the Country Club Plaza and online, as well as in about 35 franchised or licensed boutiques in the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong.

Additionally, it provides branded and private label products to national and independent pet retailers, grocers and drug stores, and mass and club merchandisers.

Three Dog Bakery has about 40 employees. Fromm said Wednesday the company could add as many as 15 workers once the manufacturing improvements are completed by the end of the year.

“We think the brand potential for the 175-year-old — in dog years — company is very significant,” Fromm said. “We think we can make world-class products here in north Kansas City.”

Fromm will serve as vice chairman of Three Dog Bakery and will not be involved in day-to-day operations. He previously had a small investment in the company. Fromm also is executive vice president of the Barkley advertising agency with 25 years of experience in brand work for such companies as Hallmark and Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Giga recently retired as vice president of strategic planning and treasurer at PPG Industries, based in Pittsburgh. Giga has moved to Kansas City to oversee operations at Three Dog Bakery. Linge is an attorney in Pittsburgh who will be vice chairman of Three Dog Bakery in charge of legal affairs.

Three Dog Bakery traces its roots to the late 1980s.

Founders Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff brought home an 8-week-old albino Great Dane who was deaf and partly blind in one eye. When that pup, Gracie, failed to thrive on national dog food brands, Dye bought a 59-cent biscuit cutter and began making dog biscuits filled with fruit juice, vegetables and other wholesome ingredients — but not preservatives, sugar or salt.

Gracie devoured the cookies, and her health quickly improved. The men’s friends asked them to make cookies for their dogs, and soon they were selling the products wholesale to area veterinarians and pet-food shops. On a day trip to Weston’s downtown shops, the dog owners had the idea of opening a shop of their own — a retail bakery for dogs.

They later moved to Westport and changed the name from KC-K9 Bakery to Three Dog Bakery after their three dogs — Gracie, Sarah and Dottie. Three Dog Bakery changed ownership and was most recently owned by several private equity groups, according to the company.

Current products include its Classic Crèmes Carob with a peanut butter filling; Gracie’s Gourmet entree with chicken, carrots, broccoli and rice; and Roll-Over Rewards, baked with oats and apples.

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