Fur Baby Pet Resort to renovate vacant building for expansion

Fur Baby Pet Resort Manager Rebecca Nicholson, Owners Sherry and Bryan Shupe, and Jeff Bowers of Bowers Group stand inside the former Growmark FS, LLC. building on NE Front Street in Milford before renovations begin. Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

MILFORD — Sherry Shupe, her husband, state Rep. Bryan Shupe and their team at Fur Baby Pet Resort have been working their tails off — and it’s paying off. The team announced another expansion, their fourth, Wednesday afternoon from their new building at 301 NE Front St. in Milford.

From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like the former Growmark FS, LLC. building has had a “ruff” time surviving the last 20 or so years of vacancy. But the inside tells a slightly different story.

Paint is falling off the walls, birds and other creatures have taken up residency and lots of repairs are needed to give life once again to the “diamond in the rough,” as Ms. Shupe called the building.

Although Growmark FS, LLC. is thriving, they simply had no need for that space once they started moving industrial operations outside of the downtown area, according to Rep. Shupe. Even though it was no longer needed, it never went up for sale, he added.

Until, that is, he presented a two-page letter to the agricultural retailer detailing his own company’s plan and desire to purchase the building.

As of Wednesday morning, the plea was a success. Thanks to a partnership called Mispillion Gateway, LLC which is between Rep. and Ms. Shupe, and Jeff Bowers of the Bowers Group, the building is no longer owned by Growmark FS, LLC. Fur Baby Pet Resort hopes to open up their new building by the middle of next year.

“Hopefully over the next four months we’re going to be renovating and restoring this building that has been vacant on the river for 20 years now. Many people know it as the Growmark truck shop that was built in 1971 and has sat here vacant on the Mispillion River for 20 years. We want to make sure that we invest in it and bring it back to life and make it something that celebrates the Mispillion River and celebrates downtown and the direction that we’re headed,” Rep. Shupe said.

The building itself is in a prime location, the partners agreed, as Front Street creates a thoroughfare between Del. 1 and U.S. 113 bringing with it local, business and visiting travelers alike. Like their three previous expansions, it is also along the Mispillion River which Rep. Shupe called the heart and heritage of the community.

Jeff Bowers of Bowers Group, Bryan and Sherry Shupe of Fur Baby Pet Resort and Manager Rebecca Nicholson stand in front of Fur Baby’s new building on NE Front Street in Milford.

When renovations are completed by Mr. Bowers’ construction company, drivers headed into downtown Milford will easily find the soon-to-be blue and brown building near busy restaurants, the police station and local stores just doors away from Fur Baby Pet Resort’s current location.

“Bowers Group has been making communities in Delaware beautiful for 28 years and that’s what we have done and are continuing to do is to take old buildings like this, old homes, renovate them, put them back on the market and make them a viable part of the community again. That’s what we hope for this building. We’re going to take it from its ugly state now and do something where it’s going to be something that Milfordians can be proud of,” Mr. Bowers said.

The building itself comes it at around 14,000 square feet, of which Fur Baby Pet Resort will permanently occupy 10,000 square feet. The other spaces within the building will yield two commercial rental units.

“This will be our fourth and final move,” Ms. Shupe said with a laugh. “We’re coming up on nine years in April. Every time we’ve moved, we’ve gotten bigger and expanded services. This, maybe we expand services, we don’t know. But we’re definitely expanding the size of what we currently offer. So, we’re going to maintain our overnight kennel, our daycare, our grooming services. . . We’re basically going to be able to triple in size of what we currently offer. We, for the last year I want to say, have had the blessing, although also the issue, of being fully booked and turning away some of our guests and we kept promising them we would find a solution, but we weren’t able to work that out in our current location so we knew we needed to expand.”

The new location met all of their criteria for a good expansion site, including a large grassy area they plan on fencing in for the droves of lovable fur-babies that visit them frequently.

“It checked all the boxes. The partnership worked out beautifully. The timing worked out for us. We’re excited,” she added.

A rendering of what Fur Baby Pet Resort in Milford might look like in its new location next year.

Manager Rebecca Nicholson also emphasized that the expansion will require more employees to help run the larger facility.

“Bryan and Sherry have sacrificed a lot. This has been a good partner for us so far, but it’s going to be a big financial commitment. But we think along with the new businesses, it will be very lucrative for our partnership. We know the financial commitment that has been made to us and that we’re going to put in is going to pay big dividends in aesthetics. Once that gets done, the building itself will be worth so much more,” Mr. Bowers said.

Many in the community seem to already be on board with the project. After Fur Baby Pet Resort publicly announced their expansion plans Wednesday afternoon, dozens of supporters took to social media to congratulate the local entrepreneurs.

Jennifer Parnell congratulated them on The Chronicle’s Facebook page, saying the she loved “the fact that you are renovating an already existing building instead of building new. That keeps the history and spirit of Milford alive.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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