Volume 22, Number 20 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 25 - October 1, 2009

Rich Tesprey of Paws in Soho with Jezebel.

Be it Soho or the Square, it’s better than a doghouse

By Chelsea-Lyn Rudder

Sixteen years ago, Sherry Field-Almaraz decided to combine her passion for animals and her entrepreneurial spirit. The resulting business employed a different boarding technique. “I was the first in the city not to use cages,” said Field-Almaraz. The demand for cageless boarding has led to two successful Downtown businesses for Field-Almaraz. After more than a decade at her first store in Chelsea, Field-Almaraz decided to expand to Hudson Square, although like many neighborhood business owners, she used the better-known area just to the east for a name.

Paws in Soho at 504 Greenwich St. is more like an animal hotel, than a kennel. Depending upon their size and temperament, dogs are organized into a series of lounges that are labeled by color. Cats have the option to remain in individual cages, but may also roam free inside of the cat room. Paws does not limit its care to dogs and cats. The store is also frequented by bunnies and guinea pigs. In fact, having actual paws is not a requirement for boarding, “One time a woman brought me her gold fish,” Field-Almaraz said.

A professional veterinary technician before going into business for herself, she strives to maintain a dependable and happy environment for both pet and owner in her stores. When Field-Almaraz decided to expand her business she was eager to find a new location in Lower Manhattan. “We looked all over the city, but we concentrated on Soho and Tribeca,” she said. “We have a great landlord and find the neighborhood to be very friendly.”

Paws’ block of Greenwich St. tends to be pretty quiet, but the store says business is up due to the pet loving spirit of the area and favorable reviews, including being named best pet hotel by “New York Magazine” in 2007.

“This is a good place to work,” said Rich Tesprey, a member of the Paws staff. Tesprey, a former truck driver and self described animal person, needed to find a new job when the trucking company that he worked for folded. After thinking about his interests he remembered that he used to make deliveries to Paws in Chelsea. “Field-Almaraz was willing to give me an opportunity,” said Tesprey, who is now a certified dog handler.

He and other employees always keep safety in mind. There are signs on the walls reminding the staff of specific precautions, like “Do not mix Louie and black Bailey, or Bliss with Syra.”

Paws’ style of cageless boarding tends to work best for social animals that are accustomed to sharing their space. In addition to overnight boarding, Paws offers day care, and drop off and pick up services.” There are people who have moved out of the neighborhood, but prefer that their animals stay with us, so we go and pick them up,” said Walter Almaraz, Field-Almaraz ’s husband and business partner.

Paws offers services like grooming that are typical of similar Manhattan establishments. Unlike many other kennels, Paws in Soho has an adoption program. “This business affords me the opportunity to do the adoptions. It is a combined community effort,” said Field-Almaraz.

Bingo, a mixed breed dog with kind eyes and tall pointy ears, is currently waiting to be adopted. “Bingo will do best in a single dog home,” said Paws staff member Alex Wronska, “He needs longer walks.”



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