N ine years ago, Linda Patenaude was at the Wooster Square Farmers’ Market thinking about ways she could get involved. For Patenaude, who went to culinary school and has worked as a chef at Yale for 35 years, selling baked goods was the obvious choice. Less obvious was her customer base.
“I said, ‘Oh my god, everyone at the market brings their dog,’” she recalls. “‘I should scrap the people stuff. I should make dog biscuits.’” That brainstorm came at a time when her husband, Wayne, who was working as a food processing engineer with Cadbury Schweppes, was considering a career change. His company was moving to Texas, and he wasn’t moving with it—in part because, as Linda says, “I’ve always been a New Haven girl.” And so they stayed, and founded Best Buddy Biscuits—which also sells jerkies—together.
After reading up on pup nutrition and double-checking with her veterinarian, Linda wrote up five biscuit recipes: Nutty Buddy Peanut Butter, Sweet Potato Pie, Beef Stew, Chicken Pot Pie and Cheezy Squares. “Since the day of inception, those five have stuck like glue,” she says. “They’re still our best sellers.”
Most of the treats have six ingredients or less. Whole wheat flour, meat or dairy and broth are the foundations of each recipe, along with a Vitamin E and rosemary oil preservative. “One of the things that always bothers me is when you go to a pet food store and pick up a product and it says ‘all natural’ and then you turn it around and it has 4,000 ingredients in it,” Linda says. “I keep mine simple, because dogs are so sensory. They smell the beef, they smell the chicken. They don’t want to smell chemicals or anything else. If you have a cheese-eater, that’s what he smells.”
Linda and Wayne take pains to make their dog biscuits look appetizing, because “people are buying them, not the dogs, unfortunately,” but even though their paws aren’t on the pocketbooks, Linda says the pups usually choose their own flavor. “We have little baskets in front of our flavors, and the dogs will stand up and put their front paws on the table and they’ll hop along until they pick their favorite,” she says.
Her own Airedale Terrier, George Bailey, isn’t a reliable test subject because he’s “an eating machine,” but there are plenty of willing tasters at the farmers’ markets and hunting expos the Patenaudes attend. “People tell us they can’t take out their cloth grocery bag until the minute they’re going out the door, because if the dog sees the bag, he knows it’s market day and he’ll go crazy,” Linda says. “Or they have to come to our stand first, because otherwise the dog won’t let them shop. We’ve seen someone carry away a full-grown Shepherd because he wouldn’t leave.”
Best Buddy Biscuits, I’m told, is set for expansion in the coming year after securing some large wholesale accounts. Linda says an important part of the BBB recipe—the company started in their home kitchen in 2008—has been “slow growth, making sure the product is really what you want it to be. To date we’ve kept the business debt-free. I think that’s a very important point for small businesses: Don’t grow until you can afford it.”
While Linda says she “enjoys being a people chef very much,” she’s planning on focusing on Best Buddy Biscuits full-time in the near future. Her furball customers and their owners are the big draw. “I’m always excited to go to the market,” she says. “Our customers are there, rain or shine. Even though we know the people well, we don’t know many of their names. But we know every dog’s name. From Tater Tot to Tuna to Rump Roast. These dogs have the most bizarre names. We know every dog, many of them since they were puppies. Animals can make anyone smile.”
Best Buddy Biscuits is just returning the favor.
Best Buddy Biscuits
Next Appearances: Wooster Square Farmers’ Market (Sat 4/22, 9am-1pm) and Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival (Sun 4/23, noon-4:30pm)
(888) 932-6831 | email@example.com
Written by Sorrel Westbrook. Photographed by Sorrel Westbrook and Dan Mims.