A 27-mile hike through the Appalachian Trail with their dogs created not only a trip in the memory books for both Darin Richardson and Kevin Mead, but also, in a roundabout way, brought a new business to Robertson County.
Truthfully, the precise moment was actually quite random, Richardson, an IT specialist, explained with a chuckle.
“A pet store! And we’re gonna call it “Nature Tails!” Mead, a pediatric critical care nurse, recalled how, out of nowhere, he blurted those words out as they were enjoying the still and beauty of their surroundings.
The subject of pet stores, however, wasn’t completely foreign to Mead and Richardson, seeing they own four dogs, which they had been featuring photos of from previous hikes via Instagram for some time.
Plus, after moving to Greenbrier three years ago, the two, who prefer to shop locally, realized there are few places in a reasonable radius to purchase quality pet products, which forces residents to travel elsewhere, according to Richardson.
So, with that knowledge tucked away, and just pondering things, Mead said the solution just struck him that day last April while on the trail.
The result was the opening of an all-natural, home-based pet treat business they call “Nature Tails,” which Richardson and Mead debuted at the 1st Friday Night Market in Springfield this past summer.
Since then, they have also sold their treats at the Robertson County Farmers Market and through online ordering via their website.
The business, which Mead said is a licensed feed facility, mainly focuses on serving up unique- flavored dog snacks to tantalize the taste buds of man’s best friend.
Both owners ensure that everything that goes into the specialized doggy treats are all natural, meaning no processed sugars or preservatives.
So, if your furry friend indulges in “Nature Tails” Cinnapups, made with oat and rice flour, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and eggs, the owners say it’s almost like they’re eating a snickerdoodle.
Other treats the owners suggest are Ginger Pups, fashioned in a heart-shaped style just for Valentine’s Day, and the Sweet Charlie Browns, made with molasses and crushed peanuts.
The Puppermints, not only feature a minty twist, but also offer a little added help with your canine’s breath issues, Richardson said.
During the fall, “Nature Tails” even offered the Bell Witch Bites, crafted like little pumpkins. The name was a play on words, according to Richardson, referencing the legend of the Bell Witch in Adams.
“I design and print out on a 3D-printer, the custom cookie cutters that we use,” Richardson added. “We bake them because they are basically cookies and then dehydrate them so they will last rather long.”
The treats cost $10 per bag for small breeds, and $12 for large breeds and seasonal flavors. Each bag contains between 18-24 treats.
While keeping things natural and healthy is of the up-most priority, using any ingredients obtained locally is a big, big plus, the owners emphasized.
Richardson and Mead grow their own mint and use eggs laid by their own chickens for ingredients.
Springfield’s “We 3 Bee Co.” is the source of any honey used. Also, the produce used to make the “Nature Tails” Sweet Potato Chews come from Hancock Family Farms.
And the Pig Skin Bone treats are made from products straight from Orlinda’s Bernard Farms.
In fact, “Nature Tails” takes using local products so seriously that Richardson and Mead even source coffee chaff for chicken bedding from Robertson County’s Lola Beans Coffee.
“I’m really proud we are able to be part of the renaissance we are seeing in Robertson County, and we are excited to be able to have a product that’s nutritious and helps support the businesses that make this place (Robertson County) what it is,” Mead added.
Both owners say business has been better than they ever expected since opening, noting they have also added water and food bowls — designed by Gehman Pottery in Adams — as part of their product line.
There have been times, Mead added, that “we have been up at 4:30 a.m. making treats until work and up until 11 p.m. at night — and sometimes have stayed home from work to finish orders.”
The future hope and plan, they said, is to transform “Nature Tails” into a retail establishment in downtown Springfield, expanding to offer an obedience school, a do-it-yourself dog wash, as well as other products — including those for cats.
“And whatever the market drives it to,” Mead added. “The treats are a way to get that started.”
For more information on how to order pet treats, or local pick-up sites, go to www.shopnaturetails.com or call 615-696-9805.