Sisters-in-law Judy and Valerie Westrum were making cookies in Valerie’s kitchen one day when their respective light bulbs simultaneously flashed.
They both suddenly agreed they would love to one day own and operate a coffee, juice and food shop.
But not your ordinary shop, thank you.
The dog-lovers decided that dogs — yes, dogs — also should be served along with their human companions. Thus began the Valley’s unusual combination human and walk-up doggy bar, In the RAW.
Their idea for a people — and dog — bar came four years ago when they were working and both were preparing for a relatively early retirement.
“I had been in the corporate world for 25 years, and I always had this desire to work directly with people,” Valerie said.
“We never talked to each other about our secret dreams until that day,” Judy said. “It came out of the blue.”
Valerie was completing work as an office coordinator at Microchip Technology in Chandler. Judy was finishing up many years in the clothing retail industry in her native California and 10 years in the beauty and personal care product business in the Valley.
“We wanted something unique,” said Judy, who shares her Chandler home with a mixed-breed dog named Sable.
“We both love dogs, so we decided to include part of our shop for dogs,” said Valerie, who lives with her husband, Kevin Westrum, a software engineer at Microchip, at their home in Gilbert along with three cocker spaniels named Lucky, Max and Chloe.
Kevin is Judy’s brother.
In the RAW has a separate walk-up window where customers and their dogs can order, for example, an expresso, a roasted turkey sandwich, a glass of freshly-squeezed juice, a smoothie and a shake mixed with almonds, oatmeal and other sugar-free ingredients for the human. And, for their four-legged dining mate, they can place an order for Mutt Muffins — sugar-andsalt-free muffins baked daily by Valerie — and other canine treats, including dry, canned and raw dog foods that they promote as being “healthy.”
“For health regulations, the dogs are not allowed inside the shop, but they and their owners can eat together outside in the patio,” Judy said.
“We want to make people aware of the alternatives to the mass of dog foods that are on the market,” Judy said. “Our dog foods are sugar and salt-free and, yes, healthy.”
“My wife and sister combine separate strengths to the business,” Kevin Westrum said. “Valerie focuses on people, and Judy has an extensive business background.”
Their shops are at the Mercado Del Lago, 8320 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, and at Lakeview Village, 143 S. Higley Road, Gilbert, which opened Sept. 9.
The Scottsdale shop is in a heavily-populated district, and the Gilbert location is in the center of a rapidly-growing residential and commercial area.
The doggy bar is only in Gilbert, but plans are to open more shops with pet services, Valerie said.
“We’re now thinking about selling franchises in the Valley,” she added.
Both agree that working at each shop seven days a week is more demanding than the 40 hours in the corporate and retail sales world, but they enjoy it.
“We put in a lot of long hours now, but its our own time,” Valerie said.
“It makes a difference when you get to know your customers on a personal level,” Judy said. “And — their dogs.”
And, yes, there is a Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday when customers can order specials for themselves and their tailwagging companions.
Besides coffee and sandwiches, the shop also sells blended drinks with exotic names such as Virtual Buddha, Liquid Yoga, Mind Over Muddle and Morning After.
The Westrums also promote several benefits, including the annual Halloween Bash in Scottsdale on Oct. 27 to raise funds for local animal rescue groups, and the Barktoberfest, a fundraiser Saturday at the Gilbert Civic Center that will help animal support group Friends For Life.
For information, visit www.rawsomebar.com.