By Amy Talcott
If you’re a pet owner, you probably consider your four-legged friend a part of the family. And as a member of the family, you want to make sure your pet is well-cared for, inside and out.
Nilla’s Tub DIY Dog Wash and Health Food Store provides parents of pooches the resources to keep their animals healthy and happy. Tucked away in an unassuming business park on Landmark Drive in Normal, customers can easily spot Nilla’s by the brightly-painted turquoise chairs and colorful potted flowers right outside their door.
Nilla’s Tub is part dog wash, part health food store. The business was founded in 2014 by Kendra Duquette after she continuously struggled to give her large dogs a bath at home. She knew other dog owners would welcome a way to make bathing their dogs a pleasant experience instead of a dreaded chore, and Nilla’s Tub was born.
In addition to a DIY dog wash, Nilla’s began carrying fresh pet food, which wasn’t available anyplace in town, and quickly built a loyal following of like-minded pet owners. Karley Eash was one of NiIla’s first customers, and in 2017, she took over ownership. “When Kendra approached me about buying the business, I jumped at the opportunity! I’ve always been involved with dogs—my own dogs as well as fostering and helping out rescue organizations—so this was a perfect fit.”
Fresh Is Best
It’s no secret that for humans, a healthy diet includes an abundance of fresh foods and less processed, convenience items. Did you know the same goes for your pets? While it’s easy to grab a bag of kibble from a big box chain store, more and more pet owners are turning to better-quality options—and Nilla’s is here to help.
Nilla’s has a variety of truly healthy pet foods available, from fresh and frozen raw food to freeze-dried options, dry kibble, and toppers. “Even if you try to figure out what’s best for your pet by going to a big box pet store or looking online, there are so many options it can be very overwhelming and confusing,” said Karley. “I enjoy sitting down with customers and offering products and suggestions that will work best for their situation to keep their pets happy and healthy. No matter what type of food is being fed, it’s almost always going to be beneficial to incorporate as much fresh food as possible.”
Raw food is the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry, in part because pet owners are realizing that a more natural, less-processed diet is healthier for their pets—just like it’s healthier for humans. Many pet owners become interested in a raw food diet because they’ve heard about it or their dog or cat has chronic allergies, itching, or digestive issues. While there can be a number of causes, and you’ll want to consult your vet, diet is often the culprit. Commercial raw pet food is available in frozen patties or nuggets, so it’s safe, easy, and convenient to use and specifically formulated for complete and balanced nutrition. “Raw feeding isn’t a magic pill for good health,” says Karley, “But owners usually notice pretty quickly that their pets have fewer skin problems, their coats are shinier, and their poop is smaller and less smelly!”
Karley says she’s seen an increase in demand for raw food over the past few years, so much so that they’ve gone from one freezer to five to accommodate all the frozen raw food they keep in stock. “We have many people who come in every week for food, and some who come to stock up on chews or treats.” she said. “We are one of the only holistic-focused pet health food stores in the area, and we carry a lot of brands you won’t find anywhere else in town. If there’s a specific brand you’re looking for, we can usually order it for you. In fact, we have several customers who drive from Peoria, Champaign, and Springfield because we are the only place that carries the brand of food they want.”
Karley works mostly with smaller pet food companies dedicated to sustainable practices, the ethical treatment of animals, and who are meticulous about the sourcing of ingredients and the manufacturing process. “In addition to raw food, we also carry minimally-processed, whole food kibbles that have no added synthetic vitamins and minerals,” she said. “I like to say we specialize in special orders,” she continued. “It makes it easier for our customers and we appreciate them supporting local!”
DIY Dog Wash
“The front of the store is dedicated to frozen and freeze-dried raw food, treats, and accessories including harnesses, leashes, toys, and more,” explained Karley. “The back of the store is where we have our dog washing and grooming area.” Many dogs aren’t wild about having a bath, but the do-it-yourself dog washing facilities at Nilla’s keeps the mess out of your home while giving your dog a relaxed setting in which to enjoy a little “spaw” time.
There are three bathing areas—two at a convenient, waist-high level that dogs can access by walking up a small ramp and another situated lower for large dogs or those with mobility issues. Rubber mats keep the dogs from slipping, and tethers allow washers to safely secure them in the tub. Swiveled hoses enable owners to easily maneuver the steady shower of water and aprons are available for those inevitable wet doggie shakes.
While customers are welcome to bring their own dog bathing products, Nilla’s offers shampoos and conditioners that can help with shedding, anxiety, dry skin and more, all in a variety of soothing scents including peppermint, eucalyptus, and aloe. The Earthbath brand products they carry are completely natural, non-toxic, paraben and sulfate-free, phthalate-free and phosphate-free; made in the USA with no artificial colors or fragrances. Scrub brushes are available to give your dog a gentle massage while you wash, and there are plenty of fluffy towels at the ready when the bath is done.
Options for drying include a hand-held dryer you can use right there in the stall, or move over to the grooming station where there is a variety of brushes and grooming combs available to provide the finishing touches. “The blow dryer has a low setting that even dogs with dryer anxiety seem to be able to handle,” said Karley. “I find that the blow dryers are a really good way to look for ticks on your dog, especially if you come in after a hike in the woods or from playing in the dog park right down the road.” She provides ear cleaner, face wipes, nail clippers, and even a Dremel tool to grind down sharp nail edges.
This whole dog wash “package” is a flat $15, no matter what the dog’s size. “I’m proud to say we haven’t raised our dog wash rates in six years,” said Karley. “I want pet owners to have an affordable alternative to bathing their dog at home.”
When Karley isn’t busy managing the store, you’ll most likely find her with her six dogs, three of whom she’s fostering from Deeby’s Senior Chihuahua Rescue, a nonprofit started by her friend, Toby Griffin. “Deeby’s takes in a lot of small dogs, many seniors or dogs with special needs,” explained Karley. Since Deeby’s is 100% foster-based, meaning all dogs currently live with foster families, Karley, who is on the board of Deeby’s, often uses Nilla’s as a meeting place for the dogs and their potential adopters. “It’s a friendly, relaxed place for the dogs and their potential owners to meet,” said Karley. “I can help them select the right food, custom fit the dogs with harnesses, and talk to them one-on-one while they meet and get to know their potential new family members.”
“People like coming to Nilla’s because it’s not overwhelming,” said Karley. “Even though we’ve grown over the years, I enjoy getting to know my customers and their pets, whether they come in once a week for food or once a month for a bath. I understand that pets are family, and I want to treat their animals the way I treat mine and help them live their best lives.”
Nilla’s Tub is located at 211 Landmark Dr. Suite B-1 in Normal. They are open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 309-451-9274, visit their website at NillasTub.com, and follow them on Facebook. You can also find Deeby’s Senior Chihuahua Rescue on Facebook at facebook.com/deebyandfriends.