Dog lovers open pet supply store in Washington Depot

WASHINGTON — After being weekenders to Litchfield County for 28 years, and moving to town permanently several months ago, Electa Varnish saw a need for a dog supply business in the neighborhood.

“After being up here for years, we realized in this area, you have to travel eight to 10 miles either way to get to a pet store,” said Varnish, who just opened Depot Dog, a 1,000-square-foot store at 11 Titus Road in Washington Depot. The previous business that occupied that location was Valley Spirit Wellness Center, which has moved to 1 Kirby Road.

The mission of Depot Dog is pet wellness, Varnish said. “We are committed to providing the best quality nutrition, necessities, products and information for cats and dogs throughout all their prospective life stages.”

Depot Dog sells locally made products, including dog shampoo, treats and scented candles.

“We have exclusive scents — ‘Puppy Kisses,’ ‘Depot Dog’ and ‘Meow’ — all formulated to make pet households smell wonderful,” Varnish said.

There are also felt pet caves.

“They have pillows inside and the animals crawl into them,” Varnish said. “They zip down the back so if you wanted to travel with them, you unzip them and you roll them like a yoga mat.”

Varnish said she has always wanted to own her own business. She previously worked in the apparel industry for more than 30 years. She decided to move from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Washington full-time due to the pandemic.

Aside from wanting to provide a convenient place for local residents to purchase pet supplies, Varnish said she has seen “a great influx” of people moving into town.

“You have all these new families — and everybody has an animal. Everybody talks about their COVID dogs,” Varnish said.

Yet another reason for Varnish’s motivation to open Depot Dog is her family’s “tremendous love of animals,” she said. Varnish, her husband David Varnish, an architect, and their 14-year-old daughter Adison have a rescue dog named Fisher, who is the dog featured on Depot Dog’s image and logo.

“He’s a mix — part Australian Shepard and part Boxer,” Varnish said.

The family also has a black rescue cat named Salizar, whom they found on the road.

“We’re runners and we were out 15 years ago on a training run in Woodbury, and we found him on the side of the road. He was so tiny, and he was crying. We picked him up and we ran him to the vet,” said Varnish, adding the vet said his health was fine.

Depot Dog is partnering with other local businesses in sponsoring some upcoming dog-related events, including “Strut Your Mutt to the Music of SONORO,” on Oct. 10. Proceeds benefit Greenwoods Counseling and Referrals, Inc. in Litchfield.

Another event will be when Spotty Dog Rescue - Home, a nonprofit organization in Waterbury, brings animals into the store on Oct. 30 for adoption opportunities.

“They rescue dogs and they foster them,” Varnish said. “The dogs go with families until they’re placed.”

Eventually Varnish said she hopes to provide the ability for customers to purchase items through the store’s website.

Washington resident Lon Rubackin said he and Merlin, his 80-pound, 6-year-old Bernese Mountain dog, have already become regular customers at Depot Dog.

“It’s a lovely place that has all kinds of dog food and treats,” Rubackin said. “He likes to drag me into the Depot, which is about a quarter of a mile or so from home, so he can get a treat and smell all the smells and see what’s interesting.”

Rubackin added Depot Dog “is very inviting.”

“Electa has done a really good job of her inventory,” he said. “I’ve been a dog and a cat person for forever and she’s always receptive to new ideas and trying new things and bringing new product.”

Varnish said one of the best factors in wanting to open Depot Dog is being able to be a part of the Washington community.

“The community has so embraced this business,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”

She added, “Even from the other merchants in town — there is a tremendous level of support for one another. People have reached out and really want you to succeed.”

For more information, visit depotdog.com or call 860-619-0430.

sfox@milfordmirror.com