CENTRAL CITY — For several years, husband and wife Cas and Brianna Bing lived under the radar in Central City, operating their online business from home.
The couple’s business, Bing’s Pets, had sold handmade dog and cat collars on virtually every continent, but the Bings were not well known in their town. Brianna Bing said: “Australians think I’m cool, but nobody here knew us. So I thought to myself, we should get out of the house and do this.
“It” grew out of the couple’s love of dogs and expressing their creativity, Brianna Bing explained. “We named (our dog) after a Pokémon (character) and I wanted him to have a Pokémon collar.”
Brianna scoured the internet, looking for a Pokémon necklace, and came up empty – but Cas had an idea. “He’s able to think of things – ‘I have this idea. And I want it to be real.
Cas had sewing experience since he and Brianna were students at Grand Island Senior High. Why not just make whatever necklace they wanted?
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“That’s what got us all started,” Brianna said. Their designs caught the eye of some animal lovers on Instagram, and the Bings realized they had discovered a gap in the market.
“We came into this 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 “dog collar subway”. Shoppers can choose from a variety of fabrics and designs, including collars, harnesses, and vests, including service dog vests.
Business boomed after Bing’s Pets was established in 2015, but Brianna and Cas longed to get their living room back.
“He invaded the whole house – everything. It would flow into the living room,” Brianna said. She understood that it was time to make a decision. “I was like, I want a house – and I want to work.”
A building east of Central City became available, formerly a space occupied by Hilder Implement and still owned by the Hilder family. Brianna said she and Cas decided to take the plunge.
“I was like, well, just for fun, I’ll call.”
Bing’s Pets brick and mortar location had been found.
After a few simple refreshments, the store at 819 16th St. begins to fill up. Fabric and loops line the walls behind the 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 has mastered breeding betas.
In the pet store, a cart of plastic containers with tiny fish show Cas’s hard work and research. Brianna is clearly proud of her husband.
“They are starting to color. The beta fish breeding process was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen him do. It’s not like some fish, where you just throw them in an aquarium and they do their thing. Absolutely not that way with beta fish.
Other tanks containing fish – and a hard-to-find shell creature called an assassin snail – take up a small area of the store. There are also catnip toys, aquarium accessories, and plenty of locally made consignment items for pets.
Cas and Brianna also train a service dog, the pet store is a great place to socialize. Milo, still a puppy, is the latest of several service dogs the couple have trained – and there are more service dog trainings to come, the couple said.
There are plans to make Bing’s Pets a socializing place for other dogs — not just Bing’s service dogs in training, Brianna said. “We hope to do Puppy Play Day on Saturday. It will be completely free. Morning people will bring their puppies and they can socialize in a safe place.
Assistance dogs have long been a part of the couple’s life. 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 otherwise would.
Brianna said she thought about what she would do without Bing’s Pets: “My mum was always in management and I was done managing, but with my disabilities I know I wouldn’t be able to do it. . I’m also not the kind of person to obey 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 and hating my life.
The couple’s social circle would also be smaller. Brianna said Central City has been a community of support and encouragement to grow a small business.
“Before, we felt like no one knew us. Now I can’t go anywhere without people saying, “Hey, do you have that? Or “hey, I heard that”, which is great. It’s nice to be appreciated. Central City Chamber (of Commerce) is really great. They have been extremely supportive. They helped us sponsor events; we made clay ornaments with dog paw prints last Christmas and we had 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 problem is understanding that we need more people. People don’t always go on like this. They go to the grocery store and that’s all they go.
The more the merrier – Brianna said Bing’s Pets would love to have more neighbors and there are plenty of opportunities. “There is Lincoln Manor that needs restoration…there are several retail spaces. Yes, please come and join our community!
The Bings are as welcoming as their community-family has been to them. Brianna said: “While I’m sure it would be great to be constantly busy, I prefer to have time to talk to people. Having business a little slower allows us to actually talk with people and it builds a better relationship. Moreover, we are not so alone.
Jessica Votipka is an education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.