Philly loves dogs! The Mike McCann Team loves dogs! Everyone loves dogs! Phew! Now that we have that out of our system, we would like to introduce to you Philadelphia’s most dog-loving duo: Sheehan Koval and Austin James of Pit Stop HQ, South Philadelphia’s premier doggy daycare. If you couldn’t tell already, we are extremely excited about this business and the genuine, caring service that it provides. We were honored to meet these two passionate, young entrepreneurs and found it impossible not to be inspired by their therapeutic and individualized approach to pet care, resulting in services that have limitless benefits for all of their customers, both human and canine.
Sheehan Koval got his start in the pet industry by running his previous business that provided dog treat vending machines for parks and pet stores in the New York, Philadelphia, and DC areas. With the support and encouragement of his longtime friend and current business partner, Austin James, Koval utilized his skills, knowledge, and connections to launch his dream business, which he describes as a “full-service, 100% cage free dog daycare and boarding service.” Like any small business in a big city, the opening of Pit Stop HQ was a challenging task. Koval admitted that “it was definitely a process and I learned a great deal about zoning, city and tax laws and numerous other policies within the first months of trying to open our doors.” Fortunately, these growing pains, which are typical of any organization, subsided quickly. Koval explained that “once the business was up and running, I am lucky to say it has been smooth sailing ever since. Our services were much needed in this family neighborhood, and we have been well embraced by everyone in the community, which means a lot to me.” True to their dog-centric vision, Koval and James credit their original clients (special shout out to their “pioneer client dog” Zachy Bear!) and their owners for providing them with the motivation, inspiration, and positive energy that pushed them towards success. They are beyond grateful for all of this support and this sentiment definitely stands as a testament to the true focus of Pit Stop HQ – they really are all about the dogs!
Pit Stop HQ not only runs on a love for Philadelphia’s four legged clientele – they also exude a real sense of pride and gratification for the service that they provide. When we asked Koval and James about the perks of running their business, they were practically overflowing with enthusiasm as they could barely stop talking about how enjoyable and satisfying their work is. Koval explained that the PSHQ staff “loves spending time with dogs all day” and that they “enjoy the time that they get to spend with their clients daily”, while James passionately threw in that “dogs are just as important as any family member and that is exactly how we feel!” This is precisely the kind of commitment, engagement, and investment that we want to see from the people caring for our treasured pets.
The Pit Stop HQ staff has a one-of-a-kind, therapeutic approach to pet care. Their informal mission statement is “they are not just your dog, they are part of you.” James explained to us that they “like to refer to [them]selves as dog therapists and refer to [their] business informally as dog therapy.” Koval also added in that they “have a huge space for the dogs to run around and we do not keep them separated or in cramped cages – we teach them to get along with each other and create a space where all dogs are accommodated based on their personality and allowed to socialize in a manner that makes them feel safe and comfortable.” This holistic approach is beneficial to pets and their owners, helping to reduce stress, build confidence, and enforce strong, healthy relationships. James explained that “daycare is a really healthy outlet for dogs to be social, and although people are often concerned with their dogs behavior due to leash aggression, anxiety, or high energy, when we get the dogs together in a group setting it is very good for them.” Koval and James proudly shared many stories of owners crying happy tears when they witnessed the improved behavior and mood of their pets. Koval succinctly wrapped up the essence of their approach by stating, “We are happy to help out in any way that we can, if the owners are happy, if the dogs are happy, we are happy!”
The genuine kindheartedness of Pit Stop HQ is not only demonstrated by their above-and-beyond approach to clients but also through charitable acts and their deep dedication to the community in which they both live and work. Koval has a long history of altruism and has helped raise money for various animal rescue groups such as PAWS, Red Paw Emergency Relief, and other small local organizations since 2011. Both Koval and James also have a mutual passion for the city of Philadelphia and have purposefully established a strong presence in South Philadelphia’s Italian Market area (Bella Vista). Koval asserted that “in the past months I have been able to develop great relationships with so many neighbors of mine due to the fact that they leave their pets in my care. It is a very rewarding feeling to make so many connections and get to know so many people and animals.” Koval also stated that one of his primary goals is to “become more involved in the strong, tight-knit, and supportive South Philly community by brainstorming ways to make our services better and offer more to our clients.” James also noted that they “have already expanded since opening in order to give our pets more room to play and are constantly developing new ideas to improve the Pit Stop HQ experience.” Koval feels that the key to the daycare’s quick success has been simply “providing a service that the area genuinely needed and helping to alleviate some of the problems that come along with the lifestyle of adopting a pup.” Koval also loves watching puppies come into his care and watching them grow, and he has delighted in seeing his own pup, Mila, improve behaviorally and socially alongside his clients.
Always looking to improve, always looking to exceed client expectations, approaching their work with the compassion and sensitivity needed for the delicate and important work that they do, Sheehan Koval and Austin James definitely embody the spirit of the Philadelphia small business community. We can’t wait to see all of the success that the future brings them as they compassionately care for Philly’s favorite companions.