Why taking over North Wales-based dog outfitters Canine & Co has offered Ian and Jan Young the ideal escape from the continual grind of corporate life
What was your career prior to taking over Canine & Co?
I was in a very corporate world, having worked in the dairy industry since 2004. My wife Jan was a financial director until EDS – a rare health condition – interrupted her career.
What brought you to Betws-y-Coed?
Both our jobs were demanding in terms of time and input. I was working 60-70 hours per week, travelling 30,000 miles a year and staying away for three nights a week. When you get to 60, the children have flown the nest, and you’re wife isn’t particularly well and needs you around more, do you keep on working endless hours or decide quality of life is more important? We were looking for a business which would be consistent with our lifestyle rebalance and where we could work together. Canine & Co ticked the boxes. We were both brought up with dogs. My dad was a vet and passed on his love of animals to me. We could see a lot of development potential with the business. I’m from Scotland originally and, to me, Snowdonia is the closest I can get to Scotland without being home. I love the countryside, the culture and the Celtic connection – it works for me and for Jan, who would come here quite regularly when she was young.
What development opportunities could you see?
Traditionally, Canine & Co’s online business was very seasonal – autumn and winter is when we’d expect 90 percent of trade. We’ve just opened a shop in Betws-y-Coed to run alongside the online business and, by investing in this, we’re trying to level it out so it’s busy throughout the year. In the past, canine clothes have been for smaller animals, but the market has changed, dogs are now members of the family, and we do a full range of sizes. Being based in Snowdonia the shop leads with outdoor clothing and accessories.
Are the clothes more on the stylish or the practical side?
For me, as a vet’s son, it’s about functionality with style. For example, a dog might be used to walking on city streets, but in the country the ground’s rugged and raw, and paws are at risk of getting damaged, so we have protectors for that. There’s a lady in the village whose Alsatian has hip displasia, where the dog tends to drag its feet. He’s wearing dog shoes at the moment for a bit of comfort. Equally, older dogs that are arthritic can benefit from jumpers.
And the dog kilts?
One of my earliest memories is of wearing a kilt. It’s something I have a passion for. But it isn’t just a Scottish tradition, it’s a Celtic tradition. There are six Celtic nations, including Wales, all with their own tartans. If you’re having a wedding or a family photoshoot and are wearing tartan, why would you not have your dog wearing tartan too if they’re part of the family?
I heard you also sell dog beer – is that right?
Yes, but don’t worry, it’s not alcoholic. It has a chicken or beef base and is sold in 330ml bottles like a normal beer. Half the shop is dedicated to clothing, leads, harnesses, outdoor jackets, swimming vests and so on, while the other half is a bakery with traditional meat baked treats. We also sell specially formulated dog ice cream, and cakes such as cream donuts and Bakewell tarts.