In 2005, Karen McCombs left the corporate world. It was a big decision, but she had a simple reason: "I just decided I wanted to play with dogs," she says. Today, two of her sons work at the original All Wags location in Charlotte, and she and another son have headed out to open All Wags Doggie Daycare and Boarding North in Harrisburg. They've painted the 9,000 square feet of indoor play space with colorful canine murals, but there's also plenty of room outdoors for a dog to play ball, leap into kiddie pools, or plant its owner's flag on the peaks of plastic playground equipment.
The staff takes the time to get to know each dog, from their names to what they like and what they're scared of—and Karen says the dogs are excited to come in and play. She makes sure the staff ratio stays at about 10 dogs to 1 staff member during doggy daycare so that pooches get plenty of attention and exercise. Except for a two-hour rest period, the dogs are out and about the entire time, rather than being cooped up alone at home or made to sit in a cage and nibble listlessly on homework. "It's just a fun, exhausting day for [the dogs]," she says. "They go home and they're very tired." Dogs who are staying the night play with daycare dogs during the day, then retire to 4'x8' kennels with heating and cooling. To make sure everyone's safe, all supervisors are certified in pet first aid by the American Red Cross and have been endorsed by multiple doggy-sniff committees.
For Karen, working with her canine customers has been rewarding, and she knows their human owners appreciate the time she and her staff take to get to know their dogs and individuals. "Everybody's just so happy and ready to see you. It's not like that in the corporate world anymore," she says.
Cooper got a rough start in life. At just three months old, the doberman-hound mix was found on the side of the road, a plastic bag over his head. Thankfully, Cooper's owners rescued him soon after, but his experiences left him with separation anxiety, aggression, and resistance to basic commands. Enter Glenn Shue, owner and lead trainer of Dogtastic Dog Training. Glenn's approach begins by first considering each canine's unique personality, which helps him tailor a training program that combines obedience training with proper socialization. Through one-on-one work with Cooper and his family, Glenn saw the pup through many of his behavioral problems, and he continues rehabilitating Cooper with occasional attention at daycare.
A graduate of Highland Canine Training’s school for dog trainers, Glenn and his team apply his teaching principles in each of their training programs. With an indoor training space at All Wags Doggie Daycare & Boarding, they organize group obedience classes and in-kennel training, as well as puppy training that focuses on building healthy social skills. Services further extend to private in-home training, where instructors teach dogs how to sit, stay, and mix martinis. Glenn's team also specializes in behavior modification for pets with aggression problems.
Ample lighting casts a bright, safe glow over the dozens of storage lockers that line the wide paths at Mr. Storage, where an electronic gate safeguards a fleet of storage units that range in size from 5'x5' to 10'x30'. The secure, locking doors to each storage unit open to unveil cavernous spaces large enough to shelter furniture, boats, and RVs. Customers can retrieve their belongings 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and on-site security continuously monitors the facilities. To further assuage moving woes, staffers can equip visitors with supplies such as boxes, dollies, furniture covers, and sofa-sized teleportation chambers.
Founded by back-to-back stock-car champion Buck Baker, Seat Time American Racing School strives to provide clients with authentic racing training. To that end, students get one-on-one attention during lessons in stock cars previously raced in the Nationwide Series and Cup. As drivers progress, the classes scale up in seat time and speed: 5, 10, 20, then 50 laps. Eventually, riders graduate to an advanced program where they practice slingshot maneuvers and other edge-of-your-seat techniques with a second car, which is more exciting than driving a rickety antique stagecoach up and down your driveway.
The Ten Faces of Success series serves teens and young adults seeking purpose and direction in their lives. Mentors help teens articulate their long-term goals and evaluate what they need to do to reach them during themed seminars and workshops that build leadership skills for academic and social confidence. Ten Faces of She empowers young girls to be themselves and gives them the tools to guide them through the difficulties of middle school, high school, and breaking up with resentful stuffed animals.
Angie Acosta, founder of Queen City DanceOut, has a simple motto for her students: "If you're moving, you're doing it right." This encouraging, low-pressure attitude attracts people of all ages to her dance-inspired fitness classes, which meet at 18 public locations. Angie and her instructors aim to make exercise feel like a celebration and a refreshing break rather than a dreaded routine. To this end, their classes incorporate intuitive dance moves and invigorating music. DanceOut, the signature course, blends genres as diverse as swing, hip-hop, and reggae into a workout, relying on repetition and basic choreography to keep everyone grooving. Other highlights of the curriculum include the Latin rhythms of Zumba; the Dance Impact class, which fuses dance and kickboxing; and JamStrong, a mixture of core-conditioning, dance, and fun.
Community is a central aspect of every DanceOut class. As pupils practice their twirls, they can follow both the teacher and the Jam Crew—a team of regulars who help make the steps easy to follow and can assist fellow dancers. In addition to group workouts, instructors host skill workshops such as Booty Bootcamp, where attendees learn rump-shaking techniques and how to turn any chair into a rocking chair. They also put on performances and lead private classes for special events and parties.