Lauren Carberry is all about animals.
She lives with three dogs and three cats in her Weymouth, MA home, her eyes light up when she talks about her part-time work at a local vet clinic, and she’s dedicated the last seven years of her life to a budding dog treat business that promises to provide pups with natural, high-quality snacks.
“My two passions in life are dogs and food, so it just kind of makes sense,” she said.
Carberry is the owner and sole employee of Carberry Kitchen, a business she started four years ago when her puggle, Ella, who died last month, developed a seizure disorder.
“One of the things we did was start looking at what she was eating,” Carberry said. “I was seeing, you know, Red Dye #40 and all of these things I couldn’t even pronounce, so I thought ‘Well, let me try baking.’ And it kind of snowballed from there.”
She started with a dog treat cookbook, and slowly started morphing the recipes into her own. Her first two flavors — pumpkin peanut butter and beef and cheese — were a hit with Ella, and the switch to all-natural food and treats eventually brought her seizures down from once every few weeks to once every few months.
Carberry started baking in bulk and eventually selling at the Weymouth Farmers Market in 2014, where some loyal customers would come only to shop Carberry Kitchen, she said.
“That’s when I thought, ‘Maybe I have something here,’ ” Carberry said. “For the longest time I thought it was just a hobby, but then I looked up one day and thought ‘Wow, this is a business and I need to dedicate more time.’ “
Two years ago, Carberry built a small shed in her backyard that houses a double oven, a small industrial mixer, several meat dehydrators for jerky and air-tight bins to store cooked treats.
“I’m completely transparent,” she said. “If you ask what’s in my treats, I’ll tell you. I’ll even tell you how much I use. I don’t care if you want to make your own, as long as the dogs are getting the good stuff.”
It’s her passion for providing animals with the best life possible — she talks excitedly about how many shelter dogs have been adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic — that Carberry says drives her commitment to the business.
“Ingredients are super important to me,” she explained. “I’ve gone to stores and bakeries to ask what they have in their treats and if the girl behind the counter or the baker can’t tell me, I’m not buying.”
And that pickiness seems to work just fine for her dogs, a pug named Savannah and two mixed breeds named Jessie and Bristol.
At the start of her business, Carberry was selling at various farmers markets five days per week, and baking a week’s worth of product on her two days “off.” She started scaling back markets and events about a year ago, and instead started to focus on the wholesale side of her business and selling in retail stores. A move she says she’s grateful for now that the coronavirus has nixed things like artisan fairs.
“It’s been really good,” she said. “I’m very lucky, especially through this time, to have everybody home and spending time with their dogs and wanting to treat them.”
When Carberry began she’d make about 20 bags of treats a week to sell at market. Now, she makes about 200 bags to stock the more than 20 stores she sells in, including Board 143 in Scituate, the Weymouth Dog Shop and several Christmas Tree Shops. She also sells online at carberrykitchen.com, and makes treats to order.
Eight-ounce bags of treats cost $10. Jerky is sold in 3-ounce bags — liver jerky is $15 and chicken is $12.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.