PAWS UP renovation offers historic feel and modern-day passion for animals

By Jennifer Bissell

Inspiration plus opportunity adds up to a new chapter in history of Waukon entrepreneurs

Waukon’s newest business is much more than a pet supply store; it’s bringing back a piece of Waukon history while honoring animals and what they can do for their adopted parents. Tracey Tepesch recently opened PAWS UP Pet Supply at 11 Allamakee Street. And for the Waukon native, it’s been a labor of love seeing her dreams come true.

Returning home
For nearly 15 years, Tepesch worked for Kohls Corporation. While her background is in human resources, she also managed several aspects of the store, such as receiving orders at the docks and managing the merchandising on the floor. She returned to the area almost a decade ago, most recently working as the human resources manager. 

Inspired by ‘Rehab Addict’
Tepesch said she’s always enjoyed the HGTV show “Rehab Addict” with Nicole Curtis. On the show, Curtis restores historic homes that have been neglected. It was Curtis’ passion for rehabilitation that planted a seed in Tepesch’s mind to restore a building in Waukon. 
In 2021, Tepesch stopped into Rain or Shine Treasures, owned by Daneela McKee and Brady Sorum. In addition to owning the retail store and building, McKee is also a licensed realtor. Tepesch and McKee talked about the revitalization of downtown businesses.
“I was impressed that she’d bought that building and all the other stores that had opened up, all by women. I wanted to jump on that bandwagon,” said Tepesch. 
Tepesch asked McKee to let her know if a building became available to purchase. A month later, fate struck when the former Cotecolor Photography building went on the market.
In a twist of fate, Tepesch’s mother’s family owned the building for much of its 143-year history. The building once housed the former meat market, owned by family members William Hausman and later Walter Hausman. Later, the building was owned by another family member, Eaton Cote. 
When Tepesch purchased the building, her plan was to restore it to how it was in 1878 and rent it. However, it took about four seconds for Tepesch to realize she had her own business ideas.
“I have a passion for animals. It’s my thing. I can’t stand to see inequality in animals,” she said. “Why rent it out when I have the retail background?”

Moving forward
After taking ownership in August, Tepesch began restoring the building to its original condition, with the goal to make it as authentic as possible. 
“This is truly ‘original Waukon’ because technically, it is. It’s the same floors and walls as it was in 1878. That was the whole point,” she said. 
With renovations under way, next came the business name. Tepesch said she took inspiration from a rescue organization in California called “Leave No Paws Behind.”
“To me, paws up is showing honor. It’s honoring the life of an animal because they’re all innocent,” she said.
PAWS UP Pet Supplies is geared toward cats and dogs, with many unique items. In addition to healthy and human-grade treats, customers can also find toys, food, leashes, harnesses, clothing and more in the store. 
“I wanted to find products that are unique; things you can’t find at Walmart, Petco and other stores,” she said. “If it’s something that makes me laugh, that’s probably why I’m going to get it. I’m unique and as a kid that was never okay. I want my store to be like me.”
Tepesch said PAWS UP is pet-friendly, meaning pets are allowed and welcomed in the store. Every animal who visits gets their photo taken and posted on the business Facebook page. Tepesch said it’s her way to celebrate each animal.
Tepesch noted PAWS UP is successful because of the animals it serves, as well as her team of help, including Judy Oltrogge, Ashlee O’Neil, Tepesch’s mother and family friends. 

For the animals
Since opening in November, Tepesch has received an overwhelming positive reaction from animals and pet parents alike. One day, she had over 15 dogs visit and recently had her first feline come into the store. 
Tepesch said this is just a piece of her overall goal – to save animal lives. For more information, visit PAWS UP Pet Supplies on Facebook. 

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