MERCHANTVILLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- Many treat dogs as though they were their own children. The Quinones family built a small business doing just that.
"If we eat better, my dogs should eat better, too," said Javi Quinones, creator of Javi's Gravy Sauce for Dogs.
A first-generation American born to Puerto Rican parents, Javi grew up in a big family centered around food.
"We lived in the kitchen," he said.
However, as a teenager, his life changed drastically.
"At the time, my twin sister was killed when my mom was actually in bed dying," Javi said. "It was pretty hard and I've been working since then."
Javi learned how to cook while taking care of his many siblings. As an adult, he worked in the meat industry. With this expertise under his belt, he was ready to start his own business.
Javi met Michiko, now his wife, and they adopted two rescued dogs, Buddy and Bear.
"These are my babies. These are my kids," Javi said about his furry family members.
He began cooking fresh gravy sauce from all-natural human-grade products about three years ago. But it wasn't until the beginning of 2020 that he opened his very own store-front.
"We were like, uh-oh, wrong time to open a store," said Michiko. Though the COVID-19 pandemic caused many setbacks, the couple kept their business alive with online sales and grassroots community engagement.
"Every piece of this business is small or black-owned businesses contributing here," said Michiko. "We put our money back into the community as much as we possibly can."
The couple also sells chunky meals topped with their famous gravy. Javi cooks each healthy meal as if it were for his own family.
To learn more about Javi's Gravy Sauce for Dogs, visit their website.