True Story: I opened a dog cafe

What would it be like to open your own dog cafe?! A dream? A Department of Health nightmare? Both? Click through for one dog-lover's business story!

When I ​was in New York last fall, I had lunch with my friend Logan. Over noodles, she told me she was thinking about opening a dog cafe; I nodded along and immediately forgot about it. 

Flash forward to 2018 and Boris And Horton is on the Today Show, USA Today, and New York Post! Today, Logan is tell us  how she helped open New York’s first dog cafe.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Logan and I’m from Connecticut, but I currently live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m 28 years old. I enjoy spending time with dogs (obvi), hanging in coffee shops, reading, group fitness, hiking, cooking

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you love dogs?
Probably a 9.5. I love dogs a whole lot, but I like to think I have some boundaries with them. For example, Horton sleeps in a crate and we don’t have a crazy meal subscription for him.

I always had two dogs during my childhood and I became full dog crazy when I started working in rescue during college.

Where’d you get the idea for a dog cafe?
My dad and I would walk our dogs together and started to notice that there weren’t any places to grab a coffee with your dog. This sometimes led to people tying their dog up on the curb, which is a major safety issue.

This was around the time cat cafes were opening so we figured that we could work with the Department Of Health on a solution.

Dogs are actually allowed inside Boris & Horton – rather than just out on the patio. What sort of Health Department stuff did you guys have to do to make that happen?
There are two separate spaces so dogs don’t actually go to the coffee counter. If you come alone with your pup you use our walk up window then head to the dog side.

If you are in a group one person would hang on the dog side with their pup while the other person goes to the counter to order and brings food in. It sounds complicated, but it works really well!

Do you have dog-friendly items on the menu? 
We do! We work with a dog bakery called Maison De pawZ to source human grade dog treats. The PB carob donuts are our best seller. We’re also working on an exclusive line of dog treats in Boris and Horton’s fave flavors.

You also host dog adoption events – tell us how those work!
We invite rescues to the space and they bring adoptable dogs. This past week we did a Senior Night with older dogs and we played Bingo.

The rescues still handle vetting the prospective homes and all of the contracts. We recently worked with Animal Care & Control and they brought their adoption van to the street right outside our cafe, which worked super well. They got a ton of donations too.

What would it be like to open your own dog cafe?! A dream? A Department of Health nightmare? Both? Click through for one dog-lover's business story!
How do you keep the humping, sniffing, barking, and fights down with all sorts of dogs around? 
We have house rules which help keep things pretty tame. We also all took a course with a dog training school called School For The Dogs so we know how to avoid and diffuse any dangerous situations, but so far nothing has really happened. There have been a few barks and growls here and there, but nothing that relocating tables didn’t fix.

When you’re hiring and training staff, how do you prepare them to be around dogs all day?
We brought in The School for the Dogs to work on a training manual and to actually train staff on dog body language with a dog present. We also only hired people who are enthusiastic about working with dogs and have a high level of comfort around them.

Even the baristas need to love dogs because they are greeting them at the coffee window all day. All of the dog side staff wear branded fanny packs with dog treats in them too so you could say we’re cheating a bit with that.

Has this affected how you feel about dog-ownership? 
It’s awesome to see how well the dogs take to the space. It reinforces the idea that its not about the breed at all. We’ve had 150 lb dogs in here, pit bulls, chihuahuas, you name it. I also love how dogs are an icebreaker for people and our customers actually chat with each other, which is a rare thing in most coffee shops.

What have you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
Its taught me to treat all of our customers with the highest level of hospitality whether they are buying a small drip coffee or a $160 dog carrier. We wanted to create a space for all dog owners to feel really welcome and have their spirits lifted.

I’m so appreciative of all of our repeat customers and our doggie regulars that I’ve actually cried about it. We just had someone from Mexico make us Boris and Horton figurines because she saw a video about us on Facebook! This experience has made me realize that most people are inherently kind and NY is not the cold, closed off place I thought.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Logan! Do you guys have any questions for her? If you live in NYC, have you been to Boris And Horton?!

P.S. True Story: I’m a dog trainer

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2 Comments

  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    There are so many dog and animal cafés where I live in Hong Kong, but I’ve seen that not all of them treat the animals with care. It’s refreshing to read about a dog café owner who’s drive comes from a spot of love and not money. I’d love to visit one day. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    Reply
  2. Lilly LeDuff

    did you have to get a special permit to allow animals in your facility where you serve coffee?

    Reply

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