Toronto Star

A doggone tasty emporium

Inspired by their ‘picky’ pooch, owners of Tom & Sawyer make fresh pet meals, snacks


His name is Sawyer, he’s a YorkiePoo, small and he is so totally in charge. This wire-haired mini-pooch is the inspiratio­n behind the fresh pet-meal emporium Tom & Sawyer on Queen St. E., near Leslie St.

He serves as the cover model on the company website. When you speak to his owners, Kristin Matthews and Peter Zakarow, who founded this business, you must pay him some attention — via petting or tossing a rubber ball — or he complains loudly.

“He’s the ultimate picky dog,” Matthews says. Now, with non-stop access to chef-made food, this pet still has his way. He likes to eat something different all the time and is a “roomtemper­ature dog,” so his meals must be lukewarm.

Before Sawyer came along, Matthews was a forensic accountant. But after 15 years investigat­ing suspicious business in the books of other companies, she realized she wanted to do something else.

She quit her job in 2013 and started to ponder her next move. At the same time, she and Zakarow — already a serial entreprene­ur — adopted Sawyer. From the start, the pup passionate­ly refused kibble.

“Dinnertime was stressful for everyone,” Matthews said. She began reading the back of dog food labels and realized what a, well, dog’s breakfast commercial food was. “I would not want to eat this stuff.”

The couple started cooking from scratch for the pooch while Matthews consulted cookbooks, read books and called around. Knowing other dog owners were in a similar situation, a business idea took shape.

The pair brought in a team of experts including a chef, vet, food scientist and animal nutrition consultant to develop products. (A crew of testing pets ate the food for a year before the store’s opening.) They looked around for a space large enough to act as a retail store and a full industrial kitchen, and found it in a former radiator shop.

The kitchen, with the capacity to put together 272 kilograms of food a day, makes batches of five dog meals (including Tummy Tamer, to feed Spot when he’s got stomach issues), three cat meals and an array of snacks.

Customers buy a kilo bag of Italian Beef Pasta for $11 (it’ll feed a Sawyersize­d dog for two days) or go for a subscripti­on service and get a deal, just $8, with meals delivered biweekly or monthly.

In the shop, there’s room for hanging out, espresso and cold drinks on hand, for shoppers to enjoy while their pup lounges on a cushion. A selection of pet products such as leashes, beds and toys line the walls.

This beautifull­y presented and well-planned offering seems too polished for a mere single store. In the next three to five years, these pet lovers hope to open 20 locations.

Along with expansion plans, they have ideas for more retail products, menu items and just about everything pet, health and lifestyle related. Says Zakarow of his wife and business partner, who he claims is behind all the best ideas, “she was far too creative to be an accountant.”

 ?? KEITH BEATY/TORONTO STAR ?? Peter Zakarow and Kristin Matthews, co-founders of pet-food emporium Tom & Sawyer, with their dog Sawyer.
KEITH BEATY/TORONTO STAR Peter Zakarow and Kristin Matthews, co-founders of pet-food emporium Tom & Sawyer, with their dog Sawyer.

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