A Barker’s Dozen
Cotton’s Café Dog Treat Barkery specializes in healthy,
all-natural treats for the pampered pooch
Story & Photos by Casey Hilder
Food | May 2015
Peanut butter honey crunch. Squash-apple medley. Blueberry and sweet potatoes. While these enticing flavors may sound like the latest granola offerings from an organic health food store, they’re actually the biggest sellers at Cotton’s Café Dog Treat Barkery.
It was a labor of love that drove Janet McCarty, a native of Madison, Mississippi, to craft recipes and a bakery business plan that brings all-natural and drool-worthy organic treats to pets of the MidSouth. “I got a dog in summer of 2013, a boxer-pointer mix,” McCarty says. “She was abandoned by her litter, and we didn’t know if she was going to make it. We spent a lot of money and a lot of time keeping her alive through vitamins, hydration techniques and that sort of thing.”
After months of specialized treatment, Cotton, the eponymous “Cotton” of Cotton’s Café, eventually overcame her sickness and thrived. Eventually, McCarty began to show concern over what she was feeding her growing pooch. “I found out the food I had been feeding her was recalled,” she says. “I was shocked and devastated, so I looked into other things to start feeding her.” McCarty’s research yielded dozens of results for recently recalled or tainted pet food products. She was faced with two options; never feed Cotton again or make the food herself.
Of course, the answer was easy. “Dogs don’t want any filler, just like people.”
McCarty developed several recipes featuring her own tantalizing blends of sweet potatoes, blueberries, squash, apples and honey. Soon after sharing her recipes with friends, McCarty began selling brown-bag bundles of bone-shaped biscuits at the Midtown Farmers Market in Oxford. “People started buying them,” she says. “It was really exciting and I felt like we really had some momentum behind us.”
In April 2014, Cotton’s Café was officially formed as a company. That same year, the business participated in the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, a three-month long contest featuring more than 30 teams vying for a prize of $10,000, as well as a nice bit of office space located at Ole Miss’ Insight Park. McCarty’s brainchild received several top honors including Best Business Plan, Best Concept for Mississippi and Best Concept for Social Entrepreneurship. “Before, I was just doing things out of my house,” McCarty says. “There was no way to expand just doing things from home.”
Identifying the palates of local pups took a lot of trial and error on McCarty’s part, with several iterations and revisions to the final recipe before settling down and baking large quantities out of the Oxford Conference Center’s commercial kitchen. “I did a lot of research at the Farmers Market to test the waters,” McCarty says. “It’s nice to work where you can see and meet not only the customers, but the dogs as well. It’s a great way to see what works and show off what we’re offering.”
And with offerings that include ingredients like Cherry Creek Apples from Pontotoc, Sweet Potatoes from Vardaman and South Mississippi Blueberries, McCarty’s treats are crafted with a sustainable South in mind.
For more information about where to purchase Cotton’s Café Dog Treats, visit cottonscafe.com or visit their Etsy at etsy.com/shop/CottonsCafe.