The Michael Bunn, Sr. Memorial Rising Star Award is given annually to a small business that has shown itself to be a “rising star” in its community. The award honors the memory of Michael “Mike” Bunn, the first person hired by CEO, Tony O’Reilly, but passed due to cancer.
The recipients of the 2021 Michael Bunn Senior Memorial Rising Star Award are Rue Reynolds and his wife, Dr. Toni Sylvester, owners of Barks Dog Daycare. Barks Dog Daycare believes that active, exercised dogs make the happiest and healthiest companions. The Barks family ensures that each pet in its care can safely enjoy play-time and down-time while away from their first family, whether it be for a few hours or a few days. While there are several dog boarding and daycare facilities to choose from, none is quite like Barks. With over 9,000 SF indoor play area and over 700 yards of outdoor play turf, the dogs at Barks enjoy a cage-free environment with all of their best buds. 24/7 on-site staffing, socialization, high health standards, webcam availability, and temperament testing are the cornerstones that make barks a safe and fun place for dogs to feel like they’re at their “Home away from home”.
Located off little neck road near highways 204 and 17 in Savannah, Barks is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Rue Reynolds and Dr. Toni Sylvester. SBAC’s relationship with Rue and Toni began around 2008 when Rue came to SBAC with tons of excitement and a dream. During those first meetings, Rue explained that he was an active Army combat Veteran and his wife an OBGYN. Therefore, they worked non-traditional hours and found it impossible to find quality dog daycare for their German Shepherd puppy. Rue was also preparing to end his military career and wanted to build his own business.
At that point, the couple had spent two years putting together that business plan, and they were ready to put together the last pieces of the puzzle. Financing the dream. Through the help of SBAC and Queensborough National Bank and Trust Company, they were able to secure that financing and open their first location off I-95 in Richmond Hill. In that leased building they built an excellent reputation and loyal clientele that supports them even now over 12 years later.
In 2017, the company hit a bit of a bump in the road when their landlord informed them their building was sold and they would need to relocate within 2 months. Always faithful and clever about their decisions, the couple began the daunting task of looking for a new facility. When they decided on the Little Neck Road Building, it offered many benefits the original location did not and it all fell into place. The doors were back open within a few weeks! This move was facilitated by another SBAC loan and proved to be a blessing because they were so busy they saw the need and nearly doubled their capacity by expanding into the adjacent space.
Even though the widespread shutdowns during the pandemic, Barks stepped up and worked to keep its services available with a limited staff to support essential workers and their pets.
This year has been another banner year for Barks, and they were able to purchase their entire 9,000 SF building + yards through an SBA 504 loan in conjunction with Thomas County Federal. They’ll never have to pay rent or prepare for a quick move again unless they want to!
SBAC is very proud of Rue and Toni and all they have accomplished. They truly built their business from an idea on paper to an impressive reality that serves its community well. They are what we affectionately refer to as “Good People”, and their business reflects that. SBAC is proud to be a small part of their success.