You know the old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs?” Well Ralph Bernstein hadn’t intended to open his new business during a pandemic; it was just that the pandemic started while he was planning to launch his new DIY dog wash, full-service bathing, and grooming salon, Dog’s Day Out.
Bernstein said, “We were so far down the road with the idea and with construction…I was already into it. So, in spite of the pandemic, we decided to roll the dice and open last June, after the lockdown was lifted.”
Dog’s Day Out is the sister business to Downtown Dogs, one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. The two businesses are located next to each other on the northwestern edge of Downtown Minneapolis, at Second Avenue North and Colfax Avenue North.
Bernstein shared, “Part of our thinking in opening Dog’s Day Out was that we’d have a natural flow of customers from Downtown Dogs. In the last 18 months though, Downtown Dogs was much more sparse than usual. Between folks working from home and almost no business or leisure travel, our daycare and boarding numbers were way down. Last spring we were only at about 35% capacity. Now we are up to nearly 70% of our pre-pandemic averages.”
“There was a big increase in dog adoptions during the pandemic. I think that really helped us as people realized that a lot of those dogs needed to be groomed and bathed. The dog grooming part of Dog’s Day Out has really taken off. Full-service, drop-off baths have been incredibly popular too,” he added.
The DIY dog bath option has been the slowest to build.
“Even though the open floorplan of our large, modern space naturally allowed for social distancing, I think people were still very cautious about being in a public setting,” Bernstein said. “They are now just starting to get comfortable coming inside and staying to do their own baths. It’s really fun to see people and families enjoying the self-service experience. Young kids love the little aprons and stools we provide so they can be bathing helpers.”
If you add the 17 years of Downtown Dogs to one year of Dog’s Day Out, Bernstein’s businesses are celebrating their 18th or Chai anniversary. To mark the occasion, on July 1, Bernstein is launching two new community initiatives:
First, Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out are starting to offer a donation round-up program, called “Change Unleashed”, where the businesses will match customer donations for a different non-profit, animal welfare organization each quarter. The first recipient organization will be Mission Animal Hospital.
Second, Bernstein will be offering a free day of daycare at Downtown Dogs or a free DIY bath at Dog’s Day Out to folks who adopt through the seven dog rescue organizations with whom he already partners to provide pro-bono and discounted foster boarding services.
“It’s been a tough year for everyone, so giving back just makes sense, at least to me. We are so thankful that so many folks found Dog’s Day Out during the pandemic. And my team and I were truly amazed and heart-warmed by the kindness of our loyal Downtown Dogs customers. Some called us to find out if we were open — not necessarily because they needed our services, but because they were worried about us. Others went as far as buying 20-day packages, even though they had no idea when they’d actually want or need to send their dog to us for daycare again. Our customers knew we cared for their dogs over the years, and now they were, in turn, caring for us. All these gestures, the outpouring of support, really made all the difference. We made it through the pandemic—literally and emotionally—because of them.”
If you want to stop by Dog’s Day Out, they are currently open four days a week, Thursday – Sunday, but plans are underway to expand hours soon. And you don’t even need an appointment to use one of their eight DIY bathtubs! You can also virtually tour Dog’s Day Out here.
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