Now open in Brookfield, The Urban Mutt is a cozy version of a full service retail shop for your pups. Cynthia Gasper and Chad Lopez, husband and wife duo, see heavy paw traffic already.(Jackie Pisano/Contributor)

For over a decade, Chad Lopez and Cynthia Gaspar have dedicated their efforts to enriching the lives of hundreds of west suburban dog owners through the canine-centric services, events and expertise offered at their store, The Urban Mutt.

With two locations in Berwyn’s Depot District and downtown LaGrange, the husband-wife duo spent years building relationships with clients, striving to offer them a unique, old-fashioned, customer service-based approach to shopping for all their dogs’ needs in an environment cozier than that of a big-box pet retailer. 

Twelve years after opening their original storefront, The Urban Mutt is now tackling a new challenge — weaving itself into the neighborhood-centric fabric of Brookfield. 

On March 10, The Urban Mutt’s new Brookfield location quietly opened its doors at 8520 Brookfield Ave., turning an outdated storefront into a modern, one-stop shop for all your dog’s needs, from food and health to play and safety. 

The new Brookfield location signaled the closure of the original Berwyn store, providing the business with larger square footage and an introduction to a community the couple says seemed eager for a niche pet store. 

The Urban Mutt’s origins trace to the late aughts. Lopez, who previously worked as an on-air carpenter on HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” began learning more about dogs, including the variety of products and services blossoming in the industry. In February 2009, he and his wife launched an online web show called “The Urban Mutt,” featuring Chicagoland’s dog-friendly services and dog owners. 

As Lopez and Gaspar began learning more about the world of dog products and services, they began hosting in-person, dog-friendly events. People began asking them where their retail store was, and while they didn’t have their own business at the time, they figured, “Why not take the plunge?”

In December 2009, they opened their first storefront in Berwyn’s Depot District, and it grew fast enough that Lopez and Gaspar decided to open a second location, settling on LaGrange’s bustling downtown. 

Lopez says what has set The Urban Mutt apart from other pet retailers all these years is simple — the mom-and-pop business’ approach to truly getting to know its customers. 

“Our main focus is always going to be customer service,” he explained. “We know our customers, we know what their dogs need. We’re able to pivot a lot faster than a bigger store, so if somebody needs something we don’t have, we can specially order it in and get it pretty fast. And, we carry a lot of things that the big box stores don’t really carry — a smaller, more curated selection.”

Fast-forward to 2019 — despite a looming pandemic, The Urban Mutt was busier than ever, and Lopez and Gaspar decided it was time to expand. 

Originally, they figured they would keep the LaGrange location but look for a larger Berwyn location. However, after looking around for a new space in Berwyn, they say they couldn’t find any space which fit their needs. 

Then, during the pandemic, they wondered about pivoting to more of an online sales and delivery-style model. They considered having the LaGrange store be their sole storefront, and a new, larger location serve as more of a warehouse-style business with delivery options. 

In November 2021, the couple closed on a new property in Brookfield, and as they began renovating the Brookfield space, they quickly noticed how many dogs were in the immediate area and were surprised by the amount of foot traffic. 

So, they made the decision to transform the Brookfield location into a full-fledged retail experience. 

“It was really the people in the area that changed our mind,” Lopez said. “They were so excited about a store opening here and enthusiastic.”

At first, they wondered if Brookfield’s proximity to the La Grange store would result in taking customers away from the other store. But through conversations with passersby, they learned many people, including newer residents and new dog owners, had never heard of The Urban Mutt, and were happy to patronize the new Brookfield location.

With a soft opening on March 10, The Urban Mutt Brookfield began offering shoppers the same niche organic and specialty foods, one-of-a-kind toys and dog supplies. 

With six employees who rotate between both locations, Lopez says The Urban Mutt will continue to strive to build a rapport with its clients. 

“You’re going to get a better level of service here, people are going to get to know you and your dog and ask questions about the things that you need, and if you have problems you want to solve, we’re going to work to find solutions for you and your pet,” he said.

While The Urban Mutt’s clients come from all over the western suburbs and southwest side of Chicago, Lopez and Gaspar — who live in Oak Lawn — say they love the classic hometown feel of Brookfield. 

“We wanted to give the Brookfield location that corner-store feel,” Gaspar said. “Here, it seems like people like to keep the community feel together and really promote local businesses. I think that helps a lot.”

In the upcoming months, Lopez and Gaspar hope to get involved in community events, including farmers markets, parades and others, as well as hosting their own street festival-style events. 

The Urban Mutt Brookfield plans on hosting an official grand opening celebration sometime in May, announcing the exact date and details on its Facebook page, facebook.com/theurbanmuttbrookfield.

The Urban Mutt Brookfield is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit theurbanmuttstore.com.