ALEXANDRIA, VA — The year of 2020 hasn’t been an easy one for businesses, but that hasn’t stopped businesses from showing continued dedication to their customers and the community.
We asked readers to nominate their business of the year choice for Del Ray and other Patch communities. One of the businesses receiving numerous nominations was Passionately Pets, a Del Ray-based pet care service and dog walker.
Passionately Pets dates back to 2007, providing services like dog walking, pet setting and overnight stays with one manager and 20 part-time staff. Since the business doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, Passionately Pets staff come to customers’ homes to provide services.
But the pandemic has made it difficult for this small business to stay afloat as people are staying home more and not needing the pet care services as much.
“We are doing 20 to 30 percent of what our normal workload is,” owner Jenna Gotch told Patch.
One of the ways it has adapted was opening an online store with pet supplies and items for pet lovers. From every item purchased, $1 goes to help pets in need. The business partners with different animal rescue organizations each quarter, and the current one is Project Second Chance.
Passionately Pets also recently added house sitting to its services for customers who take pets on trips. For those who are receiving services during the pandemic, Passionately Pets staff are following safety protocols such as mask wearing and using their own leashes to avoid touching customers’ items as much as possible.
Because the business doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, it couldn’t qualify for some pandemic-related financial assistance. Gotch herself has not been paid aside from the time her business received Paycheck Protection Program assistance. She is able to get along with her husband having full-time work, but she knows other pet care companies are struggling to remain open or maintain all their staff.
Thanks to a handful of generous customers, Gotch was able to continue paying her staff. Several customers kept paying for services for a few months even though they were not receiving the services.
“It made it so we could continue to pay our bills,” said Gotch. “Honestly people didn’t have to do that. It really just shows what an important role we play in their lives, and they actually appreciate the things we do for them.”
Gotch believes Passionately Pets becomes part of families the same way that pets are family. This year, she sent out holiday cards detailing how the year went. In response, people have been providing funds for an end-of-year bonus pool. Gotch typically provides these bonuses herself but didn’t have the money this year.
Aside from running the online store, Passionately Pets has been holding virtual events and attending pop-ups. It will be part of the Carlyle Holiday Market on Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6, and pre-orders are being accepted. In addition, a Sip and Shop Facebook Live event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Shoppers who purchase during the live event will receive a discount, and $1 from every item purchase goes to Project Second Chance.
In nominating Passionately Pets for Business of the Year, customers expressed appreciation for how the business is supporting staff and adapting to the pandemic.
“They have gone above and beyond to support their employees during the pandemic even though they have only been performing 20% of usual due to covid,” one person wrote. “The owner has worked hard to pivot and add to their offerings to keep the business float. She started an online boutique for pets and their humans and just announced offering house sitting. Things have been difficult but every staff member still puts the pets in their care first and makes them each feel special.”
Another customer discussed how the business has been safely caring for their pet.
“Passionately Pets has gone above and beyond in caring for my dog,” the nominator wrote. “Staff is always kind and attentive. Even during the pandemic, they’re being extra careful to protect clients as well as staff by ensuring everyone is wearing face masks and by bringing their own leashes for dog walks. The staff is always upbeat, and they answer any questions I have super quickly. I am a loyal customer thanks to their amazing customer service and overall kindness.”
Another nominator was an employee who lost a job as a nanny and found work with Passionately Pets. The nominator said this work is the reason she’s able to pay her bills.
“Passionately Pets made sure I had the skill set needed to efficiently care for pet owners’ loved ones,” the nominator wrote. “I was able to meet new people, learn more about animals, and be a part of a community of individuals who care greatly about the well-being of animals and their owners.”
Until things get back to normal, Gotch says Passionately Pets is trying to remain relevant and still be standing when customers do come back. She knows there has been a spike in adoptions during the pandemic, so there will be a need for services as long as the business can get to that point.
Passionately Pets serves Alexandria, Arlington, Annandale and Falls Church, with a coverage area inside the Beltway and Interstate 66. The business is now taking holiday reservations for its services. For more information, visit www.passionatelypets.com.
To nominate a business for our Business of the Year features, fill out our form.
This article originally appeared on the Del Ray Patch