Matt Gryder and Matthew Fishman
A Dog’s Best Friends
STORY: Amy Meadows
PHOTOS: Stephen Payne
Matthew Fishman and Matt Gryder know exactly who their customers are: humans and dogs. It’s that simple. Having that keen understanding is the key to their success as the co-owners of Barking Hound Village, one of Georgia’s largest doggie day-care, grooming and boarding companies.
“For our human customers, it’s about two words: confidence and comfort,” says Gryder, who serves as CFO. “People are paying us to keep their dogs safe and to give them exercise and socialization. We have to provide the utmost care to their babies with as much love as we can. If we can execute on those things 100 percent of the time, we are a success.”
That desire to provide exceptional customer service to clients is what encouraged Fishman and Gryder, who met as graduate students at Emory University and are both lifelong dog lovers, to leave their respective careers behind and forge an entrepreneurial path together. Fishman previously was assistant vice president for Voya Financial; Gryder served as finance manager at T5 Data Centers.
“Matt and I have always had entrepreneurial spirits. We also both have passion for dogs,” says Fishman, the company’s CEO. “We started talking and realized that we wanted to make the sector better for customers, both humans and dogs. We would meet on the weekends to see how we could do that.”
They reached out to David York, the founder of Barking Hound Village, to learn about the industry. Fishman and his dog, Nola, were longtime clients of the company, and he thought York would be a great resource. Surprisingly, York was interested in selling the business. In April 2017, Fishman and Gryder purchased and took over the burgeoning company, which has six locations throughout metro Atlanta, including ones in Morningside and at Ponce City Market.
“Coming into the business, we wanted to do as much due diligence as possible,” says Fishman. “We understood that we’re dealing with live animals. It’s a high-touch business, and the quality of care has to be perfect.” According to Gryder, the pair sat down and developed a strategy, working within each of the locations and interviewing each team member and manager to understand every aspect of the business. They had to learn about the types of dogs they care for and immerse themselves in the process. “It took us more than a year to feel really comfortable,” he says.
Today, Fishman and Gryder are focused on giving their employees the tools they need to succeed, as well as updating their locations to include new technology and renovated spaces. The company is also undergoing a major rebranding, updating its website and point-of-sales systems, and there are plans to open a new location soon. On a personal note, both Fishman and Gryder are new fathers. Fishman and his wife, Jordan, welcomed their son, Austin, late last summer, while Gryder and his wife, Danielle, welcomed their son, Carson, five weeks later. With the addition of Fishman’s dog, Nola, and Gryder’s dog, Tinsley, the business has become a family affair.
“We work well together,” says Fishman. “At the beginning, we wrote down on a piece of paper what we were going to agree to together, and we both signed it. And from that point on, we worked as hard as we could.” Gryder agrees, calling that moment at a restaurant in Inman Park a milestone. “We complement each other,” he says. “We bring together the strategic and tactical sides.” The effort has been well worth it, as both could not imagine having passed up the chance to take that leap together. “You have to take the chance or you’ll never know,” says Fishman. “You have to give it a go.”