Nick’s Dog Treats: Made with Love
By Becky Streeter
Have you ever taken a look at the ingredients on the box of your dog’s favorite treats? You might be surprised by a few of them. And, do you know how old they are, let alone how long they were on the shelf at the store before you purchased them? Lucky for you (and Fido!), Nick’s Dog Treats are simple, delicious and locally made, and they’re hitting the Chippewa Valley hot out of the oven.
Jennifer Hinze and Nick Napolitano, owners of Nick’s Dog Treats, are a mother-son team devoted to making healthy snacks for your furry, four-legged friends. At 11 months old, Nick was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. Throughout his childhood years, Nick and Jennifer really connected through baking together. They usually made cupcakes, but one day Jennifer asked Nick if he wanted to bake something different. “We looked at our dog, Hemi, and thought ‘Let’s make dog treats!’” Jennifer says. “We made way too many for just our dog, so we put a blurb out on FB and asked if anyone wanted some dog treats that Nick had made. The response was very overwhelming!”
Prior to this baking incident, Jennifer had devoted a lot of thought to what her son’s life would look like after high school. She knew the alarming statistics that individuals with disabilities have a very difficult time obtaining and maintaining employment. She wanted more for Nick. The excessive baking accident suddenly seemed like an answer to a series of worrisome questions. Jennifer and Nick decided to go into the dog treat business.
Nick’s Dog Treats officially started selling out of their own home/kitchen in May 2018, and purchased a building in Augusta, Wi in June 2022. Jennifer’s husband gutted and completely renovated the building, getting it up and ready for a grand opening late September. However, a fire broke out in the building a little over a month later, destroying everything inside. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the whole place needed to be gutted (again). Renovations have begun (again), and they hope to open their doors in the spring of 2023. For now, they are back to making treats in their kitchen.
All Nick’s Dog Treats are made to order. Everything is baked in small batches and sold while it’s fresh. They use all natural products, and each treat is made with only three ingredients: peanut butter, oatmeal and banana.
And for those who aren’t into dog treats, Nick’s also sells coffee! Jennifer says, “About a year after starting our business, people kept telling us that they didn’t have dogs but they wanted to somehow still support us. We thought ‘most people like coffee,’ so we started selling Door County Coffee on our website and in our shop. We call that portion of our business ‘Nick’s Brew’ in our shop.”
Jennifer’s continued passion is to create jobs for other individuals with “different abilities” so they, like Nick, can have the same opportunities as everyone else. Nick’s Dog Treats has a young man with different abilities named Justin, who has been working with them for almost three years now. Nick’s also sells items made by those with different abilities such as Miss Jaidan, who makes essential oil lotion bars and wax melts. Jennifer states, “I would not change Nicholas for the world, but I will change the world for him and others, one dog treat at a time.” Nick and Jennifer are doing what they love, and doing it with the ones they love.
You can find Nick’s Dog Treats at various locations throughout the Chippewa Valley such as Menomonie Market Food Co-op and The Local Store in Eau Claire, Donut Sams in Menomonie, Jacobson’s Ace Hardware and the Chippewa Store in Chippewa Falls, and the Osseo Nickel Barn & Coffee Shop in Osseo. For more information about Nick’s Dog Treats, or to order online, check out their website at www.nicksdogtreats.com. You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nicksdogtreatsandcoffeebrew.
Additionally, if you’d like to donate to help with the renovations for Nick’s Dog Treats & Coffee Brew, you can do so on their Go Fund Me page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nicks-dog-treats-and-coffee-brew-fire-fund.