Brenda Hawkins of 4 Paws Only is happy to see all of the shoppers at the Columbus Summer Farmers Market, but she most loves her four-legged customers.
Hawkins makes and sells artisan dog treats, which are created in her home and rigorously taste-tested on her own dog, Ripley, a Boxer-Great Dane mix, and other canine friends.
“I grew up having a dog,” Hawkins said. “I feel that dogs enrich our lives in so many ways, and I wanted to create something that dogs would really enjoy.”
Vendor name: 4 Paws Only LLC
City of residence: Camby
How and when did you become a part of the summer market?
I had been a customer of the Columbus Farmers Market and wanted to be a vendor. I became a part of the summer market in 2013.
What do you sell?
Dog treats, dog wearables, dog toys,
dog silhouettes, accessories for dog owners. I am always trying to add new items to mix it up.
How long have you been making/crafting your goods? Three years
Talk about the process of creating your items, the time, supplies and skills involved.
The creative process can be quite lengthy. I prefer to come up with a new recipe and improve and make adjustments so it will be irresistible to dogs. I always research ingredients and use those that are safe for a dog’s consumption. Each dog treat has been lab tested and licensed with the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner. Initially, I spent a lot of time sourcing the organic ingredients; my dog treats are 95 percent organic.
What do you like about being a part of the market?
I feel that I am a part of the community, and I have made many friends at the market. The market is a great place for friends to gather and spend time together. The market is an important component of the Columbus community. I also enjoy getting to meet many of the dogs that are brought to the market.
What’s been one of your most memorable experiences participating in the market?
When I have had customers tell me that their dogs love my treats and many drool over them. This is what it is all about — to know that I am adding something special to a dog’s life.
What types of conversations do you have with the shoppers?
Conversations are all about being a teach-and-learn opportunity. I like to learn something about both the shopper and their dogs. I like to explain to shoppers that by adhering to a holistic approach, eliminating the unhealthy and unnecessary by-products and additives from their dog’s treats, their dog’s overall health should improve.
Do you think people are becoming more interested in locally produced items? If so, why?
Yes, definitely. When I see people who choose to shop at a farmers market, this tells me those people are concerned about their food, and they want to know where their food is from; how it is grown, or what ingredients have been used.
Do you sell at other locations? Where?
Yes. You can also catch 4 Paws Only LLC at the Plainfield Farmers Market every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Is this a hobby or more for you?
Oh, much more. Owning my own dog bakery has been a dream come true.
What are your plans for when the market ends?
I will be participating at the Columbus Food Co-op Street Fair Oct. 4 and at craft fairs throughout the fall season and the following spring season as well.
What are Ripley’s favorite treats?
Ripley likes all the treats. But if I had to narrow it down, I would say he likes the Pup’kin Pieces and Blueberry Bonzz.”
What are some tips for helping your dog enjoy the farmers market just as much as their people do?
The market is a good place for dogs to make friends. Anytime you take your dog on an outing, I view it as a training session in regards to social skills. I feel that if a dog is nervous around crowds, it is better to either come early when the market opens or closer to closing time. I would recommend a non-retractable leash for skittish dogs, where you can keep them closer to you. Please do not bring your dog and leave it in a vehicle — it is much too hot for them and extremely dangerous to their health.