In 2013, Katy Portillo became a Denton Community Market mainstay, selling a variety of flavorful, homemade treats for the Denton dog community. After years of testing different dog foods and building some shaggy clientele along the way, Portillo opened her very own one-stop shop for pups: Susie’s Snack Shop.
After graduating from Stephen F. Austin University with a degree in hospitality, Portillo, 29, said that she and her mother came up with the idea of making and selling dog treats at the Denton Community Market on the side.
With Portillo’s experience in hospitality paired with her mother’s catering and culinary expertise, the two conceptualized homemade, gourmet dog food to begin what they call a “passion project.”
“We took this really seriously, we wanted to make dog treats that had a purpose,” Portillo said.
Portillo’s line of snacks is named Susie’s Scrumptious Snacks, after her late dog, Susie, who played an important role as the “chief food officer” and taste-tested every treat before they made their official debut. As Portillo climbed up the career ladder and managed various hotels throughout the DFW metroplex, she yearned for more.
While working as a catering sales manager, Portillo continued selling her dog treats at the community market. Her treats received rave reactions from dogs and their owners who struggled to find treats that kept their pets satisfied. The demand for Portillo’s treats had gotten so high that she began making “doggie deals” during the market’s off seasons.
“I would meet people at parking lots,” Portillo said. “The market only runs April through November, so that December through March, people would call me or text me or email me and be like ‘Hey I need some chicken feet’ or ‘I need cookies.”
After gaining support from friends, family and building a strong clientele, Portillo quit her catering sales job and placed her focus on making healthy treats for dogs full time.
“I would have never opened up this store had it not been for the Denton Community Market,” Portillo said.
Portillo’s former hospitality professor, Chay Runnels, said that she is impressed with Portillo’s business.
“She’s taken everything she learned in our hospitality program and just created this outstanding destination shopping experience,” Runnels said.
Susie’s Scrumptious Snacks is an assortment of sweet and savory dog treats including peanut butter banana cookies, “Turkey Pup-eroni Pizzas” and “Turkeys in a Blanket.” Portillo makes every dog treat from scratch in her in-home industrial kitchen, but the most popular treat is the smoked chicken feet. Portillo said she sells 100 pounds of it every week.
Big-name pet stores such as PetCo or PetSmart typically bake and dehydrate their pet food for the sake of preserving shelf life. Portillo said that she wanted to take classic dog treats such as pig ears to the next level by live-smoking them, which keeps in the treat’s moisture and nutrients.
Ashley Cox, a longtime customer of Susie’s Snack Shop, said she confided in Portillo about her rescue German Shepherd, Major’s, anxiety issues. Portillo recommended that Cox try some of her cookie bars, which contain natural ingredients such as parsley or ginger, that serve as stomach soothers or breath aides for dogs.
“After six crates of countless tears and multiple trips to the vet for help, this bar seemed to help my big baby,” Cox said. “I make sure to get these all the time for him when things are headed our way, like storms or fireworks.”
Along the shelves stocked with jars of homemade treats, customers can also find bags of Portillo’s own dog food line at the shop. With the sensitivity of dog stomachs in mind, Portillo wanted the food to be as “natural as possible.” Every ingredient in her 6-pound and 25-pound bags of dog food are grown locally, grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free and non-GMO.
“Nine months ago or so is when I got connected with Muenster Milling,” Portillo said. “I never in a million years thought that I would put out my own line of dog food, it just never came to mind.”
Muenster Milling Co. is a “family-owned-and-operated” pet food manufacturer based in Muenster, Texas. Portillo’s dry dog food now comes in three distinct flavors – chicken, salmon and duck.
In addition to the different foods and snacks sold at Susie’s Snack Shop, Portillo also sells apparel, accessories and home décor for dog owners to enjoy. Some of Portillo’s friends from the Denton Community Market have put forth their own handcrafted jewelry, bags, dog food bowls and dog shampoo.
“We communicate often and try to help one another any way we can,” Owner of Mr. Wigglebottom’s shampoo Michelle Cook said. “She is a good friend who genuinely cares about people and their pets.”
As for the future of Susie’s Snack Shop, Portillo’s goal is to incorporate a “barkery” in her shop that includes birthday cakes for dogs. Nevertheless, Portillo is proud with how far she has come as a business owner and is “going with the flow” of any future endeavors that come her way.
“I joke that I work 28 hours a day, eight days a week and it is all for the dogs” Portillo said.
For more information and treats, check out Susie’s Snack Shop on 507 South Locust St. in Denton.
Featured Image: Portillo’s line of dog food sits on a shelf in Susie’s Snack Shop on July 1, 2019. Earlier this year, Portillo partnered with Muenster Mills Co. to make Susie’s Scrumptious Snacks dog food. The dry dog food comes in three flavors: chicken, salmon and duck. Photo by Bridnee Bizor