Woodcarver opens store with accent on dogs

November 23, 1999

Gone to the DogsBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

NEW FRANKLIN, Pa. - How much is that doggie in the snow globe, or the one on the clock, or the one sitting on the music box?

Ask Michael Park. He carved them all.

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Park, 41, has been a woodcarver since 1978, a craft he learned during a 10-year apprenticeship with his father, Don Park, a master carver in Chambersburg, Pa.

Park opened his own shop in 1987 to carve his best-loved subject - dogs. He named the business, "Gone to the Dogs."


In March he moved it from his home shop on Hartzok Road in Chambersburg to an old building at 2395 New Franklin Road that once housed a firehouse. He needed more production space and room for a retail store, which opened two weeks ago.

Park said there are more than 145 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. So far he has carved about 85. He carves a new one each month.

His dogs - either hand-carved wood or molded in resin - come as miniature figurines. He carves them into back scratchers, walking sticks, leash holders, snow cones, business card holders and welcome signs. Everything is either carved, molded, built or painted in his home workshop or the shop and store in New Franklin. Park carves each new model out of wood and sends it off to be made into a mold.

Going to the Dogs is a family operation. Park's father does all the resin casting; his mother works part-time in the busy season; his son, Chris, is in charge of shipping and snow globe production; his nephew, Mark Huff, is in charge of production and customer service; and his wife, Tammy, is vice president and the bookkeeper.

The shop was a beehive of activity on Tuesday, like the week before Christmas in Santa's workshop. Aaron Whittington and Jamie Kaufman were bent over tables on a back wall painting miniatures by hand. Aaron was doing Dalmatians and Jamie was painting bulldogs. On a good day they can do about 30 apiece.

Son Chris had dozens of snow globes lined up on tables in various stages of production.

Everything the company sells is hand-made on the premises, which makes each piece just a little different.

Even Isabel, the bulldog and shop mascot, was doing her part Tuesday by sleeping in a corner and waking up occasionally to amble over to sniff a visitor.

Park said he started his business with five years on the dog-show circuit before he hooked up with Mabel's, a store that specialized in pet collectibles on Madison Avenue in New York City.

"That was my biggest break," he said.

Most of Park's business is wholesale to retailers like Mabel's. He also sells to wholesalers, by catalogue and will soon be online.

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