Talking over drinks one night, Gary Hughes and his wife decided they wanted to open their own business. There was just one question. What was the business going to be? When Gary went to a Christmas cookie decorating class in place of his daughter, he had no idea it would lead to the answer. And thanks to their mixed breed Terrier named Bruiser, who they referred to as their “Gangsta Dog”, they already had a great name.

After the party, Gary went home and baked more cookies to decorate. Not only was Gary good at decorating them, but he thoroughly enjoyed it. When Gary realized this, he began researching dog recipes and making dog biscuits to decorate. Thus, Gangsta Dog, an all-natural, gourmet dog bakery, was born.

With the help of an artist who worked with Harley Davidson, they created a logo featuring Bruiser wearing a cool pair of shades. Gary began to friend dog owners on Facebook and asked if they’d want to try his dog biscuits. He sent his dog biscuits all over the country for a year before starting to sell his products at various farmers markets.

Gary opened the first Gangsta Dog location in Louisville, Kentucky. When he and his wife moved to Virginia, they opened their second location in Yorktown. Even though their Yorktown location has only been open for a few months, Gary says that he’s already reordered his dog toy supply over forty times.

What makes Gangsta Dog stand apart from other pet stores is that from the very beginning, they were developing their own product lines. They’re planning on releasing their product lines nationally and eventually franchising.

Gary’s advice to anyone wanting to open their own business is simple. “Find a need and fill it. Focus on consumables that offer repeat business. And concentrate on how to develop brand loyalty and brand preference.” Gary develops brand loyalty and preference by making sure to plaster the Gangsta Dog logo everywhere; you can find it on all products, walls, and counters of the stores, on t-shirts, and more!

Gary W. Hughes

Gangsta Dog

319 Water Street, Yorktown, VA 23690


Written by Abby Schiano