John Sturgess, founder of Adogo Pet Hotels in Minnetonka and Maple Grove, is working to add a third location to his pack of upscale canine boarding and day-care facilities.

Sturgess said he already has approval for a conditional use permit from an unspecified city. He hopes to open a new “boutique hotel” for dogs before the holidays or in early 2015.

The former vice president of development at Carlson Hotels Worldwide combined his experience from 23 years in what he now calls the “human hotel” business and his longtime love of dogs to open the first Adogo location in 2011 in Minnetonka. The second opened in May in Maple Grove.

Each location offers boarding for 100 dogs, indoor and outdoor day-care areas, and grooming, with shuttle transport and training also available. Sturgess modeled Adogo on four- and five-star human hotels and has adopted hospitality industry-style processes to ease check-ins, acclimation and other elements of the experience, for dogs and their owners.

“This is not a kennel; this is a hotel for dogs,” said Sturgess, who named high-end brands such as JW Marriott hotels, Morton’s steak houses and Apple stores as inspirations for Adogo. “I’m not saying we’re any of those, but we’re striving to be that consistent when it comes to service, to processes, to the experience.”

His focus on the western suburbs is no accident. Applying the kind of business analysis he used to help develop more than 800 hotels throughout the United States, Sturgess did demographic and other research before choosing his locations.

“I wanted to be in what I thought was the best market in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area,” said Sturgess, who lives in Eden Prairie. “The pet spend was the strongest and the percentage of dog ownership was strongest in the western suburbs,” he said.

The highest level of spending on pets, Sturgess said, was close to where the first Adogo opened in Minnetonka, near Interstate 494 and Hwy. 62. That location draws customers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, Wayzata and Orono.

Coming in second in pet spending was the Plymouth and Maple Grove area, which led Sturgess to a site near Interstate 694 and Hemlock Lane for his second location, which he hopes also will attract business from Rogers, New Hope and Brooklyn Park. His third site likely will be close to the Interstate 394 corridor, to help him reach Hopkins and St. Louis Park, among other cities.

Boarding at the two current locations begins at $35 a night for a standard room and goes up to $55 for a deluxe, with 20 percent off for additional dogs occupying the same room. A full day of day care costs $28, with multiple-visit packages available at decreasing daily rates.

As a vice president of development at Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Sturgess helped build lodging brands such as AmeriSuites, now Hyatt Place. Sturgess, who had wanted to have his own business, also had tired of a heavy corporate travel schedule and often was dissatisfied with the care his two golden retrievers received when he boarded them.

‘I can do this better’

“From a hotelier perspective, I said I can do this better,” said Sturgess, who spent several years developing his business plan, which was the focus of his MBA studies at the University of Minnesota. “I feel like this is what I’m meant to do. I’m around dogs all the time and I’m around people all the time. I’m building a small company that I would love some day to maybe not be called a small company.”

Tom Hanna began taking Penny, his golden retriever, to day care at the Adogo in Maple Grove soon after it opened. Hanna said she “goes nuts” when he tells her she’s going there, jumping, running to the garage door and then sitting by the car door she uses as they’re setting out for the nearby location.

“He calls it a pet hotel and he runs it just like that,” Hanna said. “It appears he put a lot of time and effort into it. He has good people who work for him and it’s designed well.”

Virginia Priem has been taking her Pekingese dogs to the Minnetonka location since it opened and recently tried the Maple Grove site.

“My dogs are treated like royalty there,” Priem said. “They are there in some capacity nearly every week, and the staff dotes on them. He brings that high level of service not just to the human that’s paying the bills but to the pets as well.”

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.