Two of Deep Ellum’s long-running female-owned businesses share the similarity of both being businesses for one of Deep Ellum’s largest populations – pets! The Upper Paw, owned by Kathleen Evett, and Urban Paws, owned by Laurel Levin, have been neighborhood staples for Deep Ellum pets and owners for several years. To celebrate Women’s History Month and to highlight Kathleen and Laurel for their wonderful contributions to the neighborhood, we were able to spend some time with them to learn more about how they launched their businesses and what their Deep Ellum story is all about!
Question: How did you decide you wanted to enter the pet goods/services industry?
Kathleen Evett: They always say — do what you love. Like so many others, we love our pets and decided it was time to offer something more than the big box stores do. Better foods, better toys, better customer service, better everything.
Laurel Levin: I moved to Chicago for the dream Corporate America job with my yard dogs in 2004, and so badly needed them to play during the days and occasionally board overnight. Finding a place that I loved was very difficult and inconvenient. After working in Corporate America for about 20 years I was ready to venture into another path. I have always loved animals, especially dogs, and in 2009 I decided to open Urban Paws – a dog boarding and daycare facility that would provide the dogs an opportunity to play “in the yard” all day, the type of place I was looking for in Chicago.
Q: Why did you settle on Deep Ellum as the location for your business?
KE: After commuting past the Deep Ellum Bark Park almost every day, not seeing the same dog twice, I thought it would be a great area to open our first store. Then I had to convince my husband, Brian. Honestly, I had never been to Deep Ellum before deciding to open a pet supply store here. Brian and I started walking the neighborhood looking for locations, trying out various restaurants and came to love the people and the neighborhood.
LL: Deep Ellum picked me. Since the 1930s, my grandfather owned and ran a Pawn Shop, Honest Joes, in the location of Urban Paws. I remember visiting the pawn shop as a child and loved the neighborhood. As the buildings stayed in the family, this location was a perfect fit for my new venture dream.
Q: When you opened your business, what were the initial challenges you faced?
KE: We took our time getting into business. Educating ourselves in the pet industry took two years. Finding a location in Deep Ellum and an landlord to work with us took several months. A large majority of the remodeling of the space we did ourselves. And the first 18 months of business, Brian and I both worked full time jobs while running the store which meant 90+ hour weeks for both of us.
LL: Urban Paws opened for business in September 2009. This block of Deep Ellum was a bit dark and empty. This location was not quite in the heart of Deep Ellum nor Downtown. The apartment buildings were beginning to be built and the population was growing. With the growing population, the area became more dog friendly.
Q: What has been the best/your favorite part of being a Deep Ellum business owner?
KE: Next to being able to play with our customers (the pets of course), I love that our customers are friends, not just with us, but with each other. We interact with and look out for each other.
LL: I love the Deep Ellum neighborhood. We are a family – the residents and business owners. The history of this neighborhood has always been exciting while the ongoing changes and improvement keeps this neighborhood vibrant.
Thank you so much to Kathleen and Laurel for what they do to serve Deep Ellum’s pets and pet-owners as well as being part of the vibrant community of Deep Ellum business owners!
The Upper Paw