Todd & Mandy Rowley
Williamsburg Pet Hotel & Suites
Williamsburg Pet Hotel & Suites has been a successful family business since it opened in 1962. Three generations of Rowleys have been proudly serving the needs of pet owners in the St. Louis area for more than sixty years at what is now a stunning, high end luxury pet resort. This remarkable journey, full of family stories as well as sacrifices, made the decision to sell much tougher than just a business move.
“My parents bought it from my grandparents when I was 11 years old, so my childhood was spent with the dogs,” said Todd Rowley, who purchased the business from his father in 2001. Todd grew up on the property and has been helping out for as long as he can remember.
“The home and the business were together, which is kind of unique nowadays,” he said. The property included a four-bedroom residence above the reception area, so as a little kid, Todd’s bedtime routine always started with going as a family to let the dogs out for their last run of the night.
Todd never seriously considered taking a different career path and worked his way up over the years, starting with a variety of part-time jobs after school. After leaving home for college, he returned and continued learning the business in various managerial positions until he took over in 2001.
Living on site had its advantages, with zero commute and no mortgage to factor in. Building on the family’s legacy, Todd and his wife Mandy were careful to methodically spread out the money they spent on improvements over the years. The results were a beautiful, well-maintained property with all the modern amenities, including a swimming pool, epoxy floors, select guest rooms with 32” televisions and live Webcams.
As animal lovers, Todd and his wife Mandy thrived on life behind the scenes. When a boarding guest was especially anxious or too nervous to eat, they could go in and spend some extra time just petting and sitting with them. Helping those dogs get comfortable and have a good time was especially rewarding, Mandy said.
“It’s been a nice run. If we didn’t have younger children at home, we might make it to a fourth generation,” said Todd of their two young daughters, ages six and two. The oldest was already starting to help out by sweeping up for the groomers and had made friends with some of the customers, who even brought her little souvenirs from their travels.
“We’re bummed that they won’t remember much about this time, but we weren’t really looking to hold on to the business until they’re out of college,” Mandy said. “Eighteen more years is a long way away.”
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While the family’s legacy is strong and the memories are plentiful, the constant responsibility and emotional stress of running the pet hotel has taken a toll on the family. “It’s a tough industry. At times, it was a lot of pressure for us.” said Todd, referring to the anxiety of waking up every day not knowing what problems might be waiting.
“If something happens, it’s our face that’s going to be on the news, you know?” said Mandy, adding that they’ve never spent a holiday away from the facility. “On the holidays, we’re completely full. We’ve always had to work.”
The Williamsburg Pet Hotel has been in the same location, just west of St. Louis, since the beginning. Back in 1962 there were fields of cows next door, but today the very recognizable storefront faces a busy street. The prime location plus multiple generations of customers – and generations of pets – built a quality reputation for the Williamsburg Pet Hotel that needs almost no paid advertising. The increasing success of a business that practically sells itself made it additionally hard to walk away from.
Even so, always being responsible for the safety of the animals and managing a large staff with plenty of people problems was exhausting. Todd and Mandy started thinking about what it would be like to have a more normal environment instead of a commercial property for raising their daughters, as well living closer to Todd’s parents, who had moved to Florida.
Over the last five years or so, the Rowleys have been approached by potential buyers. They interviewed several brokers before meeting Teija Heikkilä of PET|VET M&A, Sales & Advisory. “We talked to Teija and really hit it off with her. She was just exceptional.” They appreciated how the PET|VET staff walked them through the selling process in manageable steps, never letting them get too overwhelmed. “We wanted someone who would come to bat for us and stick up for us. Teija was very protective.”
“The thing about Teija that we liked the most is that she knew the industry … It makes a huge difference.” Other brokers seemed to only understand the finances of the deal, but Teija had the industry experience to know the value of the facility and the investments they’d made in it.
Teija predicted they would get multiple offers, and she was right. She even knew the co-founder of the company they ended up selling to, which they said was reassuring. But the deciding factor was the buyer’s desire to have Todd and Mandy stay involved. “We were able to release the reins but still have an opinion and a say in how things are run. They believe that the business was so profitable while we were there, why would they want to change anything?”
Todd and Mandy are looking forward to what comes next, after they take some much needed time off. They’ve relocated to Florida, in part to be near Todd’s family, who has been very supportive of the decision to sell. “Everybody says it’s a new chapter,” Mandy said. “I’m like, no, this is a whole new book.”