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Ground floor: Couple's dog the inspiration for Furry Friends Boutique

'I didn't know I could drive a nail, but my dog taught me I could'

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Larry and Sandy Earle have a furry friend to thank for their new business.

Squirrel-loving Daphnee, a 12-year-old dachshund and one of the couple’s six rescue dogs, was the muse for Furry Friends Boutique, which the Earles operate out of NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.

“Daphnee loves to sit in the yard and wait for the squirrels to come,” Sandy Earle said. “She will sit there for hours, even in the snow and rain.”

One day about five years ago, Larry decided he would make a squirrel house to entice the squirrels to stay. With no prior woodworking experience, he found a pattern and made two houses, which he placed in two different trees.

“I didn’t know I could drive a nail, but my dog taught me I could,” Larry said.

The squirrels took up residence, and Daphnee was happy.

Larry’s newfound hobby grew from there. The Quaker Oats retiree started making squirrel feeders, bird feeders, and houses for birds, bats, bees and butterflies. He sold his wares at area farmers markets under the business name Backyard Habitat.

“I didn’t want to just sit around after I retired,” he said.

In the meantime, Sandy, who had worked at the Humane Society for many years, took up sewing. She started out making reversible bandanas for dogs and cats, and accompanied Larry to market to sell her handiwork. Her business, called Sandee J Creations, soon expanded into collars, leashes, harnesses, and other pet accessories.

When NewBo City Market opened in the autumn of 2012, the Earles became guest vendors on weekends. But setting up shop and tearing down each weekend wore on the couple. When the market offered them a permanent spot late last year, they jumped at the opportunity.

“We always thought this was the place we should be,” Sandy said.

“It felt like home to us,” Larry added.

The couple moved both businesses into a 10 foot by 10 foot space, but quickly outgrew it. In July, they moved into a larger spot and merged the two businesses into Furry Friends Boutique.

Their new, larger digs have allowed the Earles to expand their inventory. The shop now offers animal carriers, T-shirts, holistic pet food, gourmet pet treats, cedar coolers, barn wood decor, and other gift items. Many of the items are Iowa-made.

“What we can’t make ourselves, we try to have done locally,” Larry said.

The Earles still produce much of the shop’s inventory themselves, admitting that it can be a challenge to keep the handmade items in stock. On most Mondays through Wednesdays, when the market is closed, Sandy is busy sewing, while Larry works in the garage on his wood items.

They said that when things get too backed up, their human friends pitch in to help.

• Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com

At a Glance

Owners: Larry and Sandy Earle

Business: Furry Friends Boutique

Address: 1100 Third Street SE, Cedar Rapids

Telephone: (319) 447-2040

Website: http://myfurryfriendsboutique.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Furry-Friends-Boutique-LLC-889261351142189

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