A new store in Portland's Foster-Powell neighborhood brings a unique business model to the community: a focus on pet products, created by women and people of color.
"The Headstrong Hound", at 6544 S.E Foster Road, held its grand opening on Saturday, March 27. Owner Emily Elpusan cited her lifelong love of animals, and her Filipino-Mexican heritage, as motivators for starting the business.
"I wanted there to be a place that someone could shop for quality pet supplies that are women-owned or BIPOC-owned," Elpusan said. Currently about two-thirds of the items she carries come from such companies. The store offers products for both dogs and cats.
Elpusan's other goal is to provide high-quality items that customers can afford even if they're not wealthy. Her experience working part-time jobs has helped her understand the financial obstacles that many pet owners face.
"My dog is my baby, you know? It's a struggle, when you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, trying to pamper them," she said. "There are so many boutique pet stores where it's just out of a lot of working people's budgets."
Elpusan always hoped to start her own business, but she wasn't sure how that would play out. Then the pandemic led to a furlough her from her job, giving her time to focus her goals and build a business plan. She conducted extensive research to find the pet products from by businesspeople who identify as female, Black, Indigenous, or people of color. She drew upon her past pet store work experience to source pet food, treats, and supplements that meet her high canine and feline nutritional standards.
Other products on the boutique's shelves range from Star Wars-themed collars to dried buffalo ears coated in honey. Dogs can go home with the chew toys and stuffies shaped like cactus, tacos, or boba tea. Cat lovers can purchase tiny catnip-infused gnomes, or flashy wand toys. Handmade face masks for humans are packaged with matching bandanas for pets.
The Headstrong Hound also occasionally offers walk-in nail trims and other grooming services, which are announced in advance via Instagram.
Elpusan's background fueled her passion for pets. She grew up around animals, sometimes helping her grandparents breed and show their Afghan Hounds. Her mother was a horse trainer who competed in barrel racing. As an adult, Elpusan took a job grooming dogs in order to learn the skill.
Elpusan lives in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood with a cat named Mod and a rescued racing greyhound called Bowie. In fact, the store's name came from her experience with sighthound breeds, and her appreciation that they can be stubborn.
The pooch Bowie, though, has willingly stepped into his role as The Headstrong Hound's greeter. Customers can expect him offer a gentle, friendly welcome. "He does this thing where he sort of smiles at the people coming in," Elpusan explained. "He'll get up and be like, 'Oh, hey, hello!'"
Elpusan called the FoPo community "just amazing", and said much of her business so far has come from people who just happen to be walking by – often with their dogs. Many express appreciation for the store.
"This was one of the things they wanted in their neighborhood," she said. "Especially the whole 'walking distance' part of it."
"The Headstrong Hound" is open Tuesdays through Sundays – until 7 p.m., on weekdays. The store's website is – www.theheadstronghound.com; its Instagram account is – @theheadstronghound.
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