It’s no secret that Northern Virginians know how to spoil their pets. Home-cooked meals, personalized outfits and bedazzled collars are just the beginning.
But the luxury of being a four-legged friend in the DC metro area just went up another notch. Local pups now have their own dog food-focused food truck thanks to two NoVA residents.
Woofbowl, owned by Ron and Solo Holloway, made its debut in August and has been making its way around the region to local birthday parties (yes, some of which are solely for local pups), holiday pop-ups and breweries. The menu? Dog-friendly “burgers and fries,” ice cream and even beer—don’t worry, it’s alcohol-free and carbonation-free.
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“We want to create a super-cool industry of dog-friendly entertainment and events, some independently and others through local collaboration,” says Ron. “Dogs of all types play with each other and we want to see that same unity of people.”
It wasn’t merely the community aspect that brought the Holloways to this idea though. It all started when they adopted their first French bulldog, Latto, around eight years ago.
“Long story short, I am a military veteran, and I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” says Ron. He had served eight years in the U.S. Navy, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. “I had heard from counselors that dogs were doing great things for service members with PTSD, so my wife and I adopted our first bulldog.”
Their second French bulldog, Dino, came along not too long after to make sure Latto didn’t get lonely. The Holloways insist that the dogs aren’t just like family, but that they are family. And for Ron, having them was lifesaving.
“There was a real change in my outlook on life,” says Ron. “When I wasn’t playing with my dog, I felt like there was a foot on my chest. When I play with them now, when I’m on the floor with them, it’s like everything else goes away. Loving them has helped me immensely. I can say as a fact that if it weren’t for my wife and our dogs, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Fast forward eight years, and Ron had what he described as a comedic epiphany.
“I just looked at my wife and said, ‘How about we do a food truck for dogs?’ and she kind of looked at me,” says Ron. “We’ve been together for 15 years, so I know the ‘that’s not half-stupid’ look, and it turned into this crazy improvisation back and forth.”
Solo had been making Latto and Dino’s food for awhile, focusing on a raw food diet, and had delved deeper into canine nutrition over the years.
“Bulldogs are known for gas,” Solo said with a laugh. “So I was like, there’s got to be something to help with that. I happened to come across the raw food diet, and once we switched them over, I noticed an immediate change in their health. Afterward, we kept seeing unhealthy treats for dogs wherever we went, and I wanted to change that somehow.”
Thus, Woofbowl was born. But … not quite. The Holloways still needed a food truck equipped for serving up the dog-friendly bites and pints, so they handed over their savings and ended up getting “played dirty” by a contractor.
“Let’s just say we’ve been resilient in the face of adversity,” says Ron about the experience. The couple then raised nearly $2,000 via a Kickstarter to bring the idea to life.
Come August 2019, the couple-turned-business-team was ready to roll out the truck’s first menu. All of the items had been pre-approved by their in-house taste-testers.
“It’s been a lot of trial and error,” says Solo. “But our dogs do taste just about everything. The only time they didn’t was a salad I had tried. Latto kind of gave me a look and I knew.”
Aside from the nixed salad, the menu includes all pup-friendly meals and treats, such as chicken nuggets (bite-sized piece of all-breast-meat chicken, breaded with ground flax seed and served with ‘honey it-ain’t’ mustard), a meatloaf and mash burger plate (featuring grass-fed beef “burgers” on a whole wheat cookie buns, topped with sweet potato mash and kale leaves) and a Thanksgiving-themed turkey and cranberry doughnut.
“We just really want to make this stuff for people, and bring whole food to dogs, while on wheels,” says Solo.
Some passerby may glance at the colorful food truck and wonder why serving up fast food for dogs is worth the venture for the Holloways, but there’s quite a bit in the works for the local brand. The couple is hoping to franchise, especially in other dog-friendly areas such as Los Angeles, New York and more.
For now, the food truck will be making stops at Caboose Commons, Enchant’s holiday event in Washington, DC and the URBN holiday pop-up market at the Mosaic District. It is also offering a “pupsgiving package,” a full-spread of holiday-inspired food for your pooch that can be delivered to your door.
After the holidays, the Holloways are looking forward to the warmer months for more curated, dog dinner parties and dog-park brunches. Expect to find them serving up more crepes, sausages and slices of birthday cake, and giving an all-new meaning to the term doggie bag.