Several commercial projects came to his mind. Running a pet store and bakery wasn’t one of them, at least at first.
“When I met my wife, we shared the same passion for animals,” Koehler said. “We have vastly different professions. Animals were a compromise.”
Two months into their venture as owners of Pacific Pet Treats at 601 Wave St. In Monterey, Koehler and his wife Christina built their résumés through word of mouth and social media.
“The feedback – not only from locals, but from tourists – has been good,” Koehler said. “We get to know the locals and their dogs on a first-name basis.”
Pacific Pet Treats is unique in that most of their dog and cat food products are made with fish from local fishermen, while the toys come from surrounding plastic from recycling.
The couple wanted their treatments to be healthy, keeping the environment in mind in the process by offering clothing products made from recycled materials and eco-friendly cotton.
“I hate profligacy,” said Koehler, who is also general manager of Louie Linguini’s on Cannery Row. “There are parts of the fish that are not used and that are still healthy for consumption. That was bothering me.”
Before opening the company, Koehler began incorporating more fish into his dogs’ diets. The results were immediate from a health point of view.
“Our dogs were more energy,” said Koehler, a CSU Monterey Bay graduate. “Their coats were nicer. All the healthy fish oils were making a difference. We’ve seen a lot of health benefits.”
With a surplus of baked fish for their pets, Koehler started feeding friends who had animals.
“We had more than our dogs could eat,” said Kohler, a voracious hunter since he was 9. “So my wife and I took a step forward.”
The idea of turning it into a business started to take shape, with the thought process of it being an online-only service.
That changed when Koehler learned about all the protocols that would be required to sell animal rewards, including licenses and submit them for lab testing.
“The requirements for making pet food are more difficult than making human food,” Koehler said. “All pet food must be lab tested. It must be made in a commercial kitchen.”
So when she opened the spot Koehler had seen for 17 years, which included a commercial kitchen, a plan was made.
“If we’re going to do this one day, we need a commercial kitchen space,” Koehler said. “When the site came up, we decided to go with an entire bakery and boutique.”
The hobby and vision became a passion and a reality for Koehler, whose wife also works as a mental health therapist.
“Fish provides high values of lean protein with plenty of vitamins and minerals,” Christina said. “I don’t think there is quite such a thing in society.”
Not all foods are made strictly with fish. Koehler contains items with peanut butter. But the goal was to create animal health-conscious treatments.
“Most of what we sell is fish-based and from local fishermen,” Koehler said. “We felt it was important to work with the local people. We used King Salmon as a treat.”
The adventure created long hours and seven-day work weeks, with the business open daily from 11am to 8pm. Lab tests can be expensive. But the rewards were encouraging.
“Going from an initial online business to having a bakery was something that needed to be done,” Koehler said. “But being on historic Cannery Row allows us to highlight what we need to do to be sustainable.”
The traffic that flows along Wave Street as tourists make their way to Cannery Row has been helpful, especially with their online service and webpage.
“People stop out of town out of curiosity,” Koehler said. “Most of them have never seen this before. We have had a lot of quick feedback. Things still need to be done. We need to grow. But we are really happy with where we are.”