by Terry Rogers
In 2020, the former GROWMARK FS truck shop at 301 Northeast Front Street will be transformed into a state-of-the-art pet hotel, daycare and retail location. The building has been purchased by Mispillion Gateway, LLC, a new company formed between Bryan Shupe and his wife Sherry, owners of Fur Baby Pet Resort, and Jeff Bowers, owner of Bowers Group. Just under 10,000 square feet of the building will be used for a new Fur Baby location while the remaining square footage will be available to lease.
“We chose the name Mispillion Gateway because this property is the first in Milford’s Downtown Development District coming from the East and we want to use that high visibility to highlight our community’s commitment to innovative small businesses, the arts and the Mispillion River,” Mr. Shupe said.
Mrs. Shupe explained that the old GROWMARK FS building checks off all the boxes that Fur Baby Pet Resort felt they needed to expand their store for the fourth time. “This building has a lot of space inside for retail, daycare, the hotel and our spa,” Shupe said. “Most important, it was in downtown Milford, right across the street from the river and just down from our current location. Bryan and I have had a strong desire to help with the beautification of our downtown area and it has always been our desire to bring an old buildings back to life.”
Fur Baby opened on South Walnut Street in the storefront that currently houses Gallery 37. Initially, the store was only 800 square feet with nothing but retail options. They added one day per week of grooming in a back storeroom but realized they needed to expand quickly. A few years later, they moved to Southwest Front Street almost doubling their space to 1,500 square feet. They added daycare and additional retail and spa options. When the space became available next to Arena’s, Fur Baby grew to 6,000 square feet and hotel services were added.
“The new location will allow us to better serve more pets,” Mrs. Shupe said. “We will have a much larger outdoor play area and hope to even add a splash park for the animals. We will be expanding our retail to online sales and are even looking at local delivery options in the future. I think our rapid growth can be attributed to our dedicated team of pet care professionals. We have a wonderful team and we do a lot of in-house training. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. This is a very unregulated industry but we take the time to undergo certification and training to bring the best to our families. We also attribute our success to the pet parents who believe their pets are part of the family and deserve socialization, better nutrition and better products.”
The partnership with Bowers is especially exciting to Bryan Shupe as Bowers has been a mentor to him since he graduated from college.
“I came out of college and there were very few jobs due to the economy,” Shupe said. “Jeff hired me to be part of his real estate business where I learned a lot about real estate, both commercial and residential along with property management. I often go to Jeff for advice of all kinds, business, financial and life. He has provided us with so much insight into how to grow our business.”
The GROWMARK FS building was not listed for sale when the Shupe’s realized its potential for the new Fur Baby location. The Shupe family sent a letter to the administration at GROWMARK FS outlining their intentions for the property and asks to purchase the land. After several months of negotiation, GROWMARK FS agreed and the building officially became the property of Mispillion Gateway, LLC on November 20, 2019.
Many locals remember the property as home to the Milford Fertilizer Company. According to Milford historian Dave Kenton, Robert A. Fischer was hired by Elbert N. Carvel, who would later become Governor of Delaware, to manage the Valliant Fertilizer Plant in Laurel. Fischer married Martha, Governor Carvel’s secretary, in 1945 and the couple moved to Milford in the 1950s when Fischer took over ownership of a fertilizer plant operated by Draper & Davis which had been sold to Valliant. This plant became Milford Fertilizer Company and was a division of Valliant until Fischer purchased the entire operation. He expanded the company, building the truck shop across the road from his plant in the 1980s. The company was sold to a private grain company in Minnesota in the 1990s and then to GROWMARK, Inc. in Illinois around 1995.
Fur Baby Pet Resort will use just 10,000 square feet of the building. The remaining 4,000 square feet will be available to lease. The area can be divided into two businesses or used by one.
“It is really a blank slate,” Mrs. Shupe said. “We are looking for small businesses that will complement the downtown area. It could be retail, a restaurant, a brewpub, just about anything. We will emphasize that we are looking for small, local businesses and are not in the market for a big chain store to take over the location.” Mr. Shupe joked that when Ben Muldrow drew the concept drawing for them, he added a brew pub in the extra space that was called “Hair of the Dog.”
Rehabilitation has already begun on the building and Fur Baby hopes to be opening there by early spring 2020.
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