Doggie Treats That Raise The ‘Ruff’

Hawaii Doggie Bakery owners Niki (left) and Tasha Libarios with their pups, Katsumi and Kuri Firefox NATHALIE WALKER PHOTOS

Hawaii Doggie Bakery owners Niki (left) and Tasha Libarios with their pups, Katsumi and Kuri Firefox NATHALIE WALKER PHOTOS

I always pictured myself as the kind of dog owner who pampers her pet with lavish gifts and homemade treats. But, sadly, life got in the way, and my pup Mally has had to settle for Milk-Bone knockoffs.

That’s why I was so stoked to talk story with Niki Libarios of Hawaii Doggie Bakery: It gave me an excuse to get Mally some tasty treats.

Libarios, who owns the bakery with her sister Tasha, bought the business from its original owner about four years ago, and moved it to Manoa two years ago. Before opening a brick and mortar, Hawaii Doggie Bakery was a mobile business that focused on craft fairs and farmers markets.

While the business has expanded, it still frequents such events. And longtime fans of Hawaii Doggie Bakery will be happy to know that the Libarios sisters haven’t changed the classic dog treat recipes.

“The only thing we added so far are glutenand wheat-free options,” says Niki. “We use the recipes that (the previous owner) developed.”

The bakery aims to use as many local ingredients as possible, and gets many fixings from their farmers market friends.

“We feel really strongly about keeping things local, in terms of our ingredients and vendors,” says Niki. “We always are baking so (our treats) are a lot higher quality than the things you’ll see that have been sitting on the shelf for months.”

The Libarios sisters have high hopes for what the future holds. Recently, Hawaii Doggie Bakery was one of two state winners in The American Small Business Championship, which is sponsored by SAM’s Club and SCORE.

The competition’s main theme revolved around sacrifices made in order for the business to be successful. Being the creative duo they are, the sisters chose to do a video.

“We said, like other small businesses, we had to sacrifice time and money,” says Niki. “We had our parents involved, had them complaining, ‘Oh no, you’re missing another family dinner?’ or, ‘I’m getting dog treats for Christmas again, that’s wonderful.'”

In addition to bragging rights, they received a $1,000 SAM’s Club gift card, a year’s worth of business mentoring from SCORE and an all-expenses-paid trip to Phoenix for a regional training symposium.

“For the prize, we’re going to use some of it to help fix up our store a little bit,” Niki explains. “We also like to work with different local (animal) rescues to give them supplies that they need. We’re excited to share it.”

It seems like a pretty sweet (and adorable) gig the Libarios sisters have. While it’s definitely hard work, they get to see the cutest customers on a daily basis.

“I love that I get to see dogs all the time,” Niki says. “Dog people are just so awesome, (it’s fun) to be able to see people who are just as crazy about their dogs as you are.”

For more information, visit hawaiidoggiebakery.org.