A sous chef for most of his career, Villa Park’s Freddy Rembert drew on his kitchen background to create his unusual, award-winning invention that now appears in local TV commercials.
“I’ve been cooking for ages and a day,” says Rembert, 72, who now works for Quest Food Management Services, a Lombard company that supplies meals to businesses, conference centers and schools.
“When I’m not cooking, I’m selling.”
These worlds collided one summer about a decade ago. Macie, the German Shepherd and Pit Bull rescue mix he picked up from the West Suburban Humane Society in Downers Grove, was shedding fur, leaving fur all over the home Rembert shares with his wife, Debra . Drawing on his cooking experience in the kitchens of Cracker Barrel and elsewhere, Rembert thought, “I wish they had hair nets for dogs.”
Granting that “Dog hair netssounds like that could be the title of a comedy skit on “Saturday Night Live,” Rembert created a prototype full-mesh jumpsuit for Macie. He slipped Macie’s paws through the opening, pulled her pulled it over its back and closed it without a hint of protest from the dog, who happily carried it for hours.
“I took it off,” recalls Rembert. “Hmmm. Look at all that hair.”
Convinced he was on to something, Rembert searched the internet before finding a manufacturer on Alibaba, the China-based business-to-business wholesale platform, who made him 1,000 dog hair nets in a variety of sizes. sizes to fit small, medium and large breeds – – from precious pugs to burly Bernese mountain dogs.
“I sold all that,” said Rembert. He continues to work at Quest and his wife works for Brookdale Senior Living. But the pandemic put an end to his net sales, and Rembert closed that business.
He was not the only small business owner or minority businessman to go out of business. From February to April 2020, the number of black-owned businesses fell by 41%, and businesses run by women, Hispanics and Asians also declined, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
In order to help these companies, the telecommunications company Comcast organizes a contest called Comcast RISE, which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment. Rembert, who also owns a non-profit company called Just Love 1 that makes hoodies and donates profits to help feed children in schools, entered his Doggy Hairnets in the contest and was named one of the winners of free local TV ads for 90 days.
RAGE Agency, a Westmont digital marketing company, created the ads for Doggy Hairnets. One shows a dog, in trouble for shedding on the bed, jumping on a computer to order his Doggy Hairnet. The commercial ends with the dog wearing his Doggy hairnet and his happy owner in his bathrobe together in bed, eating popcorn and watching a movie.
The nets, made of a lightweight, ventilated mesh, sell for $14.95 at doggyhairnets.com and come in two colors: the black Dark Knight and the Lady Rose, which is pink with white lace collars around its neck and legs.
“It has a purpose more than to look cute,” Rembert says. “I know there is a market.”
Macie wore the Dark Knight around Villa Roosevelt Park in the York Center Park District in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees while Rembert talked about dogs not caring about mesh.
“She loves it,” Rembert says of Macie. “It also acts as a comfort blanket on stormy days.”
Online reviewers sometimes seem surprised that the product works and their dogs don’t mind wearing the net. A satisfied customer contacted him by phone to thank him, says Rembert.
“She said, ‘You saved my marriage. My husband wanted me to get rid of the dog because he’s losing so much hair,'” Rembert laughs. “Now they have started sleeping in the same bed again.”
Rembert says he expects orders to pick up in the summer heat. Through his website, he has sold the nets in 13 countries, he says. He hopes that TV commercials will bring him more customers.
Still working as a chef, Rembert’s personal cooking style changed.
“I haven’t had to wear a hairnet for the past 20 years, because…” Rembert says, tipping his hat to reveal his bald, shiny scalp. “I solved this problem.”