CENTRAL CITY — For several years, husband and wife Cas and Brianna Bing lived under the Central City radar, operating their online business from home.
The couple’s business, Bing’s Pets, had sold handmade custom dog and cat collars on virtually every continent, but the Bings weren’t well known in their town. Brianna Bing said, “People in Australia think I’m cool, but nobody here knew us. So I was like, we should get out of the house and do this.”
“This” sprouted from the couple’s love of dogs and expressing their creativity, Brianna Bing explained. “We named (our dog) after a Pokemon (character), and I wanted him to have a Pokemon collar.”
Brianna scoured the internet, searching for a Pokemon collar and came up empty — but Cas had an idea. “He’s able to just think of things — ‘I have this idea. And I want it to be real.’”
Cas had sewing experience from when he and Brianna were students at Grand Island Senior High. Why not just make the collar they wanted?
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“That’s what started us all in,” Brianna said. Their creations caught the attention of some Instagram pet lovers, and the Bings realized they had discovered a gap in the market.
“We came into it as a hobby, but then it was like, OK, I guess this is our job. This is our life,” Brianna said.
Brianna describes the dog and cat collar/harness operation as the “Subway of dog collars.” Buyers can choose from a variety of fabrics and designs, including collars, harnesses and vests — including service dog vests.
Business boomed following the Bing’s Pets 2015 founding, but Brianna and Cas longed to have their living room back.
“It took over the whole house — everything. It would flow into the living room,” Brianna said. She realized it was time to make a decision. “I was like, I want a house — and I want to work.”
A building on the east edge of Central City became available, once a space occupied by Hilder Implement and still owned by the Hilder family. Brianna said she and Cas decided to take a leap.
“I was like, well, just for fun, I’ll call.”
Bing’s Pets’ brick-and-mortar location had been found.
After some simple sprucing up, the shop on 819 16th St. is starting to fill up. Fabric and buckles line the walls behind the front counter, Cas’s sewing machine placed on a side table, always at the ready.
Following the loss of his beloved dog, Cas became interested in beta fish. Using Facebook groups and other fish community resources, Cas got a handle on breeding betas.
In the pet shop, a cart of plastic containers containing tiny fish show off Cas’s hard work and research. Brianna is clearly proud of her husband.
“They’re starting to color up. The process of breeding the beta fish was the coolest thing I’ve ever got to watch him do. It’s not like some fish, where you just throw them in a tank and they do their thing. Absolutely not that way with beta fish.”
Other tanks containing fish — and a difficult-to-find shelled creature called an assassin snail — occupy a small area of the store. There are also catnip toys, fish tank accessories and plenty of locally-made consignment items for pets.
Cas and Brianna are training a service dog, too, the pet shop a perfect place for socialization. Milo, still a puppy, is the latest of several service dogs the couple has trained — and there is more service dog training to come, the couple said.
There are plans to make Bing’s Pets a place for other dogs to socialize — not just the Bing’s service dogs in training, Brianna said. “We are hoping to do Puppy Play Day Saturday. It’ll be completely free. People in the morning will bring their puppies and they’ll get to socialize in a safe place.”
Service dogs have long been a part of the couple’s lives. Both Cas and Brianna have disabilities that benefit from service dogs. Having their own business allows them to make their own schedule, bring service dogs with them and have more independence than they might have otherwise.
Brianna said she thinks about what she would be doing without Bing’s Pets: “My mom was always in management and I had done managing, but with my disabilities I just I know I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m also not the kind of person to fall in line under other people’s rules. (Cas and I) are both very independent. Honestly, if we didn’t do this I’d be working at a gas station hating my life.”
The couple’s social circle would likely be smaller, too. Brianna said Central City has been a supportive, encouraging community to grow a small business.
“Before we felt nobody knew us. Now, I can’t go anywhere without people being like, ‘Hey, do you guys have this?’ Or ‘hey, I heard this,’ which is great. It’s nice to be appreciated. Central City Chamber (of Commerce) is really great. They’ve been extremely supportive. They’ve helped us sponsor events; we made dog paw print clay ornaments last Christmas, and we did a Valentine’s Day event.”
Brianna and Cas said they want to see more visitors and more businesses in their part of town. Brianna said, “Our biggest thing is just been getting we need more people to come. People don’t always continue this way. They go to the grocery store and that’s as far as they go.”
The more the merrier — Brianna said Bing’s Pets would love to have more neighbors, and that there is ample opportunity. “There’s the Lincoln Manor that needs to be restored… there’s several retail spaces. Yes, please come join our community!”
The Bing’s are as welcoming as their community-family has been to them. Brianna said, “While I’m sure it would be great to be busy constantly, I prefer to have time to talk to people. Having a little slower business allows us to actually talk with people and it builds a better relationship. Plus, we’re not so lonely.”
Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.