Experience Matilda’s

Joanne gets to the bakery early to start preparing the days treats. Photo Credit: Rachel Kraft Joanne Elliott is the only dog baker in town. She runs and operates the small Lakeside bakery and is there every morning, preheating the oven to 350 degrees and baking biscuits.

Today she is making Bow Wow Bacon treats. They are a big hit, along with her peanut butter and bacon biscuits, and sell out daily.

“If all I made was bacon and peanut butter biscuits I would be just fine,” said Elliott. “They just walk out the door.”

She opens a door toward the back of the shop to a small and narrow makeshift kitchen. Peanut butter, honey, canned yams, oats, and bacon bits fill the shelves. She grabs a large glass bowl and reaches for the whole-wheat flour, unprocessed wheat bran, and bacon, while Thor, her Chihuahua, looks on eagerly at her feet.

“Okay, let’s start baking!”

Elliott has always baked treats and cooked meals for her three dogs, Matilda, Olive, and Thor. Matilda, with whom the shop is named after, is a Siberian Husky and Elliott’s largest dog. Thor, the Chihuahua, is her little helper and comes to the shop with her every day and keeps her company while baking. And then there is Olive, the newest addition to the family; she is a bull terrier mix and a Katrina rescue.

The dogs work as taste testers, but Elliott also samples her own creations.

“Yeah I’ve tried everything,” said Elliott. “They are pretty bland, so you just have to chase it with a glass of milk.”

So when Elliott was presented with a space to turn her passion and care for her canine friends into a business she hopped on board without hesitation. And in less than 48 hours Matilda’s Dog Bakery and Boutique, located on 4711 E. Superior St., was made a reality.

“Okay!” said Elliott. “I guess I’m starting a business.”

Joanne Elliot makes all of her dog biscuits from scratch with fresh, natural ingredients. Photo Credit: Rachel Kraft

Prior to opening the bakery in May 2011, she had tested some of her biscuits at craft shows and they sold out within a few days. She had also started testing her treats on her friends' dogs and they all loved them.

“Then one thing led to another and it just kind of happened,” said Elliott.

Other than her love for her three dogs, Elliott says that she got her inspiration from reading a book about two businessmen from Kansas City who quit their corporate jobs to open a dog bakery. Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff co-founded Three Dog Bakery in 1989. According to their website, it all started when “three dogs, two guys, and one $0.59 biscuit cutter joined forces”.

Elliott, originally from Chicago, moved to the North Shore three years ago, after being a golf pro for 20 years in Illinois. She too needed a change in her career.

“It was time to get out of the golf business,” said Elliott. “And after I got settled in here I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted.”

Since the shop is located directly across the street from the Lakewalk, Elliott gets a large range of customers. Big manly hunters walk in wanting high-end treats, like the Salmon Shooters, to train their spaniels and the regulars come in to talk about pet nutrition with Elliott and to get their weekly fix of healthy treats for their four-legged friends.

“Wow, it smells so good in here,” said Lita Doesken as she walked through the front door. “I’m going to have to eat a Salmon Shooter for myself.”

Thor, Elliott's Chihuahua, oversees all baking operations. Photo Credit: Rachel Kraft

Doesken is the finance assistant at the Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth and a regular customer at Matilda’s. She has two adopted dogs of her own, Winston, a Pekingese-poodle mix, and Sheldon, a Yorkshire terrier-poodle mix.

According to Elliott, the best thing about her customers is hearing them talk about their dogs and that they are always in a happy mood.

“I mean I talk about my dogs, but not like some people do,” said Elliott. “Oh my God.”

Although it’s a one-woman shop and a lot of work to keep up, Elliott has no plans to slow down. She is planning a “Biscuit of the Month” program for the holidays and a Bark-tober Fest and Howl-o-ween costume party. Bark-tober Fest is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011 and features treats for both dogs and their owners.

“That’s what I like about this place,” said Doesken. “There is always something different going on, it is never static. It’s more like an experience here: the Matilda experience.”

“Yeah, exactly,” said Elliott laughing with Doesken. “We’re all completely nuts.”

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