The ill wind of COVID-19 blew different outcomes to different types of businesses. Many radically cut back their staffing, services and/or hours. Some folded altogether, and the widespread turnover of storefronts in Kingston’s Stockade District is testimony to that sad fact. Walk down Wall or North Front Street these days and you’ll see plenty of empty shops and more with unfamiliar occupants. But some businesses found ways to thrive amidst the restrictions on social activity, and a few canny entrepreneurs actually found inspiration to make a brand-new start.
Opa! Gyros Greek Restaurant at 333 Wall Street was among the many Uptown eateries that had to scale back to takeout-only in the early days of the pandemic. But at least co-owners Cathy and Johnny Trataros were able to keep the place running. Not so for Cathy’s cosmetics business next door, Face Beauty Studio, which depended largely on wedding traffic. “Nobody was getting married,” Cathy laments. So she shut it down.
When it became possible for Opa! to expand sit-down service outdoors, Cathy took note of the fact that many patrons were bringing their furry friends along with them to the sidewalk café. “That’s when all the dogs started to come,” she says. Apparently, when people were unable to socialize with friends on account of a public health emergency, they bonded more closely with their pets. And if they didn’t have one already, they got one, for company. “Lockdown rescues” became a big thing.
Seeing an unfilled niche market, Cathy decided that it would be a good time to bring a doggie boutique to Uptown Kingston. The Trataroses already had a place to put it, since the former Face Beauty Studio is part of the restaurant building. And so they got to work on renovations, with Johnny doing most of the construction and painting himself. There’s even a crystal chandelier. On November 17, Bark and Biscuit opened to the public.
It’s a tiny space, but well-organized, crammed to the gills with products to pamper your pet. There are dog toys, collars and leashes, food and water dishes, seasonal clothing and accessories. But “Our main focus is gourmet treats,” says Cathy. “We have something for every dog.”
As with humans, allergies and food sensitivities are common with our four-legged pals, so she’s careful to list all ingredients, and offers a broad variety of treats — many of them containing no animal protein at all. “A lot of dogs are allergic to chicken,” she notes. Specific grains and soy are also common canine allergens, so many of the treats on offer are made with combinations of rye flour, sugarcane, molasses, peanut butter and/or canola oil. Some products are specialized to dogs’ health needs, such as “CBD treats for our friends who are a little bit more anxious or carsick,” and “chewy things for our aging friends who might not have any teeth left.”
One wall, designated the Farmers’ Market, displays various flavors of meat jerky and dried fruits and vegetables. But Bark and Biscuit’s most popular items are crunchy kibble nuggets made with roasted peanuts and apple, sold in little bags at $1.29 per ounce. Other treats sold in bulk include apple cinnamon bears, blueberry waffles, pumpkin biscotti and cheddar pretzels, all displayed on a table in the center of the room.
Laid out around them are larger “dog cookie” treats, sold singly, with prices ranging from $1.99 to $7.99 for specialty items. All of them are charmingly designed for visual appeal to pet-owners, and decorated with colored icings. There are bone shapes and autumn leaves, miniature pizzas and pumpkin pies, hot dogs, tacos, beer steins, cannoli, cupcakes, avocados, lattes, bagels, fire hydrants, rainbow hearts and INY souvenir treats. Some are inscribed “Happy Birthday,” and all dogs are entitled to a present from the owners when their birthday comes around.
Holiday items are a big draw. Right now, you can get dog cookies shaped like champagne glasses for New Year’s Eve, with 2022 written on them in icing. Christmas and Hannukah-themed dog cookies were already nearly sold out on the day HV1 paid a visit. “That’s what we do all day long: stocking-stuffers,” says Cathy happily, noting that business has been brisk and continuous since the day Bark and Biscuit opened its doors. “There’s a lot of foot traffic. Customers are really happy to see that there’s something Uptown.”
Many of those customers bring their dogs with them, and all are welcomed inside with a treat. “The dogs that come in here are just so cool,” says Cathy, who regularly posts photos of the day’s visitors on the shop’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100073322022354). “They always have a smile on their faces,” agrees Cathy and Johnny’s son Paul, who helps out behind the counter.
Bark and Biscuit, located at 333 Wall Street, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The stock will be updated with the seasons, with more emphasis on accessories for hiking with your dog once the weather warms up, according to Cathy. And she promises a fabulous selection of Valentine’s Day treats for the pup closest to your heart. For inquiries, including orders for custom gift baskets, call (845) 331-3223.