Welcome to Seattle Unleashed, featuring local things we dig and hope you will dig, too. Since we are in the dog days of summer, today we want to showcase one of our favorite Seattle companies, Swell Gelato for Dogs.
Everyone loves a frozen treat on a hot day: ice cream, sorbet, and especially gelato. But what about our dogs: do they feel the same? For Debbie Hendrickx, her quest for the answer led to her most favorite business endeavor, Swell Gelato for Dogs.
When an 18-year corporate retail career came to an end in 2016, Hendrickx was entertaining the idea of opening an old fashioned ice cream parlor. “I just wanted to be part of a happy business, and for me ice cream and smiles go hand in hand,” she said.
While this was much encouraged by her ice-cream-loving boyfriend, something still felt off. In the back of her mind there was a little voice that reminded her that as long as she could remember, she’s always wanted to work with dogs.
On a sleepless Seattle night, the two ideas merged. “It was instant,” says Hendrickx. “Once the concept popped in my head I knew it was right and Swell, gelato for dogs was born.”
She wanted to create a dessert for dogs that was rich, creamy and full of flavor, yet made of only dog-friendly ingredients.
“When thinking of indulging in a frozen dessert, we don’t crave skinny, sugar free or watered down versions: we want that full sensory experience that only quality gelato or ice cream brings. Life has taught me that usually the best way to go is to keep things simple. Use great ingredients, follow a good recipe and a tasty treat will follow,” Henrickx said.
“So I researched, experimented with recipes, and eventually narrowed it down to a handful of flavorful, dog-friendly, and quality ingredients while following a traditional gelato making process.”
Tasting everything along the way with her two dogs, Hendrickx knew she had come up with something good. Even her boyfriend, who originally wanted a human ice cream parlor, is sold.
“Both my boyfriend and I taste test every batch right out of the gelato machine. Since they really are quite delicious he now thinks the whole thing is pretty… swell.” (Pun intended.) Next, she bought a bright orange gelato cart to take to the local dog parks to put her product to the test.
“I got really funny looks at first when I rolled in with my cart, and I’m pretty sure a few people thought I was crazy, but they were intrigued,” she said. “Once they realized how much their dogs liked it, the dog park visitors got excited and came back every week for more. It was basically the happiest business environment one can imagine and I was surrounded by dogs!”
Fast forward to today, and Swell dog gelatos are sold in many local pet and human stores, including Mud Bay, All The Best Pet Care, West Seattle Thriftway and Metropolitan Market.
“The NW is truly the best place to live. People genuinely embrace local businesses, there is a real appreciation for high quality food and dogs are such a part of our family that the whole concept fits right in,” Hendrickx said. “I am so grateful for this community, and really the best part hasn’t changed from my dog park days: watching that joy on the owners face when they give their pup a Swell gelato, while at the same time seeing the dog’s delight as they are enjoying their treat.”
Swell, gelato for dogs are available in six flavors including Banana-Peanut Butter, Pumpkin-Cheddar, and Sweet Potato-Molasses, to name a few. Plus, they’ve launched a new line of gourmet dog food toppers including Honey Glazed Carrots, Sweet Potato Medley and Veggie Cheddar Melange.
Visit swellgelato.com for more locations to purchase.
about the author
Stephanie Olson is a dog lover who also happens to love writing. Her passion for sharing people’s stories led to a journalism degree at the University of Washington, and quite by accident, a career in advertising. When she’s not crafting creative tag lines and writing dog-centric articles, she spends her free time taking long walks with her dog, Annie, cultivating in the garden, and testing out new recipes in the kitchen.