Rover Ranch and Spa: One Family’s Dream
By Kathy Hosler
Photos by Rover Ranch and Spa
“Our family has always been passionate about animals,” says Max Bratman enthusiastically. “My parents, Liz and Marty, had a dream. They wanted to open a family-owned-and-operated boarding and daycare business. They envisioned a place where owners could be confident that their dogs would receive excellent care, and the dogs would be happy and safe.”
After several years of intensive planning and development, the Bratman family opened Rover Ranch and Spa in Farifield, New Jersey. Sadly, just a few months after they opened, Marty was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently passed away. However, armed with fierce determination and great love, the family continued to operate Rover Ranch, and to keep Marty’s dream alive and thriving. Today, Liz and Marty’s thirty-three-year-old son, Max, is heading the operation.
As a youngster, Max started as a “Ranch Hand,” and as he grew, he progressed through the ranks. This energetic young man has a unique perspective of the business, and he knows how every facet of it operates because he has done every job at the ranch.
“I was in the trenches for years before I was running the full operation,” says Max. “When you experience each job from the base level up, you develop a special set of skills.”
Since Max came on eleven years ago, he has taken Rover Ranch and Spa to a new level: “Our revenue has tripled. We now bring in over a million dollars per year,” he shares enthusiastically.
Max advises that part of running a successful business is to establish and follow policies. One iron-clad policy they have is that all dogs must have a Meet and Greet evaluation before being accepted for boarding or daycare. This helps prevent a lot of problems before they start. Max also finds it invaluable to have staff on duty 24/7 so the dogs get round-the-clock care and supervision.
“Our 24-hour care makes the business so much easier to run,” he says. “And, it helps the pet parents feel safer.”
They board an average of 40 to 50 dogs a night. Owners can choose a cozy cabin, a regular-size suite or a luxury suite for their dog. Full-view glass doors and front panels allow the dogs to enjoy their stay in a comfortable, safe atmosphere.
Like many other facilities, COVID-19 had a big impact on Rover Ranch and Spa: “During the pandemic, everyone had to alter what they were doing (since boarding was practically non-existent),” explains Max. “We started an awesome dog training program that has produced great results for the dogs, owners, and also for the bottom line of our business. We offer one-on-one basic obedience, leadership training, power training, and a board and train program. It has become a great new revenue stream for us, and helps improve behavior in the daycare dogs.”
Daycare is one of the major parts of the business. Beautiful, mural-decorated, spacious indoor and shady outdoor play yards offer day-long enjoyment for the pups. The dogs are grouped according to their size and temperament.
“We focus on Quiet Dog Daycare,” Max says. “It is the safest daycare. People are always amazed at how quiet the playgroups are while the dogs are socializing and having fun.
“Our daycare is now operating at full capacity with up to 60 dogs per day. The key is accepting the right kind of dogs. That’s why we have a mandatory Meet and Greet evaluation. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t accept every dog. Some dogs make the daycare environment much harder to manage.
“We work with the dogs on an individual-needs basis to make sure they are a right fit for daycare,” Max continues. “It can be very complicated. There is a lot that goes into forming the daycare playgroups. But, the results are a really safe, enriching daycare for all the dogs.”
At Rover Ranch, they have very high safety standards. Accepting the right dogs, having a well-trained staff and having an adequate staff-to-dog ratio makes this possible.
“My staff is everything,” says Max. “They are a huge part of my success. I am so proud of them, especially my General Manager, Jess Alomar. She is passionate about the animals, knows what I expect, and understands the business.
“Our staff receives extensive training,” Max continues. “Every Ranch Hand is trained in dog psychology and communication, being a pack leader, and CPR. We cross-train our team members to do multiple jobs in the facility. So if there are ever any staff issues, I can put people where I need them.”
During the pandemic, Rover Ranch was forced to shut down for more than two months. Max used some of that time to completely rebuild their website, www.roverranchandspa.com. Now visitors can take a virtual tour of the facility, see all the services they offer and even book their reservations online. The website also has a new chat feature—“Ask Max.” It goes to Max’s cell phone and gives him a direct line of communication with the visitor.
Social media is also an important tool that Rover Ranch uses to connect with their clients and the community: “Facebook is the most powerful advertising tool ever invented by humanity. There are more Facebook users than any other social media platform. The pet owners love our posts and the photos and videos we share on our pages,” Max shares.
So, what sets the multi-award-winning Rover Ranch and Spa apart from others?
“It’s the individual attention we give to each dog, our 24-hour supervision, the safety we offer our clients, and the fact that we are a family-run business,” Max answers.
He then adds, “It’s hard work, but the passion is still there.”
And that passion is leading Max to fulfill a dream and vision of his own. Rover Ranch and Spa is going to open a second location in the near future.
“The next facility we build is going to be my dream pet resort,” says Max intently. “We are going to take the lessons we’ve learned from the past to create the ultimate in pet care.”
When you follow your dream, anything is possible! Just ask the Bratman family.