“We came here to Chesterfield, and loved the town”: Q&A with the Barkworthy Dog Emporium
Carole and Tony Foster, a husband and wife team moved from Manchester to Chesterfield and opened a dog emporium called Barkworthy.
By Dean Lilleyman
Published 7th Aug 2023, 11:26 GMT
Sat in Theatre Yard, as far as pet shops go, this one is certainly quirky. “We wanted to specialise a bit with unusual stuff,” Tony says. But, ‘unusual’ here, is a drive for natural and healthy with a focus on the holistic. Good food, good toys, and good treats. Carole also works with the Reach Sled Dog Rescue charity, who focus on rehoming Northern breeds like Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds and Huskies. Tony is also an artist, and offers dog portrait work as part of the Barkworthy service. Let’s put some random, and not so random, questions to Carole and Tony.
1. What made you jump from Manchester to Chesterfield to open the shop?
Carole: “We actually signed the lease two years ago today, and we opened in September 2021. The motivation behind it was a whole change of life for us really. We lived over the other side of the Peaks, near Manchester. And we had a lot of drama and tragedy. We lost our dogs and my dad. And with Covid, it kinda gave us a kick up the bum to start a new life, didn’t it.
Tony: “Yeah. Also, where we came from, it was not unlike round here. There was a lot of old industrial pit land, that had been converted, that hadn’t been built on for obvious reasons. But then they started to build on it. So it became like housing, housing… a bit like everywhere in the country. Five, six thousand houses going up. No new roads, no new schools. And it became really quite congested. So we were looking around for somewhere. Because, you know, we’re getting on now. We don’t need to be in that rat race. We came here to Chesterfield, and loved the town. It was in lockdown so it was really quiet. We couldn’t really gauge what kind of normal hustle and bustle it was, but we could see a historic market, a lovely market town.”
Carole: “The people were really friendly, weren’t they.”
Tony: “Yeah. So we kinda walked into this little yard area. And we saw this, and we thought ‘this will do us’.” Photo: Barkworthy Dog Emporium, Theatre Yard, Chesterfield
Tony: “Because we had half-formed plans about setting up, we thought about a market stall just to start us up. All you know is, there’s a big, pet chain retail store here, and there’s not much else. There is a kind of a niche. Even so, we didn’t want to do what all the traditional pet shops were doing. So we wanted to specialise a bit with unusual stuff. Carole: “Which is why we went just for dogs instead of just a generic pet shop. Because we know a lot about dogs, and we know a bit about cats, but any other animal, we know nothing. So it’s kinda like stick to what you know.” Photo: Tony and Carole inside Barkworthy Dog Emporium, Chesterfield
3. Do you think there’s always a backstory to what people might see as a badly behaved dog?
Tony: “Almost always. If we have a bad experience we’ll shy away from repeating that. So for instance, our girl has got fear aggression. So she becomes very tense, very fearful, and you can tell it’s not physical aggression. Her eyes are rolling and you have to restrain her. Now obviously, we have to take steps to accommodate that. So we have to cross the road a lot. And people might think you’re being ignorant but…”
Carole: “We don’t know what she’s been through in the four years before we had her.” Photo: Happy dog choosing a toy in the Barkworthy Emporium, Chesterfield
4. What advice would you give to someone looking at getting a dog?
Carole: “Breed research, breed research, breed research. Make sure it fits your lifestyle. If you’re not prepared to walk eight miles a day, don’t get a husky. It’s kind of common sense. You fit the size of dog, the breed of dog, to suit your lifestyle.”
Tony: “And reputable breeders as well. Breeders that want to ask you questions about whether you’re suitable. The other thing as well is look at rescues. There are so many dogs in rescues. So many dogs needing homes.” Photo: Healthy dog treats in the Barkworthy Dog Emporium, Chesterfield