Wagly Pulls Out of Potrero Hill

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In July, 2016, The Potrero View reported that Washington-based pet care startup, Wagly, planned to launch a “comprehensive” animal boarding facility, grooming service, and veterinary clinic in Potrero Hill.

The business was expected to open later that summer at 1400 17th Street. By autumn, anticipated renovations at the gutted building, previously occupied by California Caster, hadn’t materialized. Late last year, Wagly terminated its lease on the space, confirming rumors that the company had changed course and decided not to open in San Francisco, at least for the time being.

The only official notice Wagly made about its departure from the Hill occurred when mention of it disappeared from the company’s website. The reason for the withdrawal remains unclear. Contacted by the View, Wagly chief executive officer Craig Susen stated that, “Wagly has no comment.”

Last year, before the opening of its flagship location in Bellevue, Washington, Wagly announced that its expansion goals included seven “pet campuses” in California and one in Arizona; an eventual nationwide rollout was suggested. More recently, Wagly appears to have scaled back its immediate ambitions, although a new San Jose facility launched in February, following two Southern California openings. The company owns three dog daycare centers in the Bay Area, which Wagly purchased in 2015: two Fog City Dogs locations in San Francisco and Smilin Dogs in San Carlos.

Last fall, former Chief Technology Officer Craig Susen replaced Wagly co-founder Shane Kelly as CEO. Chief Commercial Officer Angela Owen left the company at around the same time.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two local pet-related business owners hypothesized that permit complications or zoning problems may have played a part in Wagly’s retreat.  However, public records – including three 2016 building permit applications, two of which were issued, with the third put on hold, despite an approved “change of use” to “animal services,” on account of “street improvement” requirements and “minor sidewalk encroachment” issues – don’t support this theory.

There also was speculation that Wagly’s “big-box” approach to pet care might have turned out to be a poor prospective fit for Hill residents, who tend to value one-on-one interactions with their dog walkers, groomers, and veterinarians.

“They didn’t reach out to me at all,” said one nearby business owner. “I don’t think they treated it like a neighborhood, and Potrero Hill, we still pride ourselves on being a neighborhood. They felt like, if they came in with the most money, they didn’t need to form relationships with the people who were already there.”

Wagly’s financial backing had come from the New York City private equity firm, Invus Group, with funding reportedly in the range of $20 to $50 million.

Another neighborhood business owner added that Wagly’s promise to house as many as 800 pets within its 16,000-square-foot Potrero Hill facility seemed “impossible or unsafe.”

The 1400 17th Street building is expected to be sold to a speculative buyer, with escrow set to close in June.  Its future use is as yet unknown.