Coffee and Canines: A Recipe for Success
Patch talks with Community Bark owner Andrew Appel about his unique idea to bring coffee, canines and community to Brown Deer Road.
More than three years ago, Andrew Appel had a wild idea: create a coffee shop where people can get their dogs washed. Or a dog washing business where people can drink coffee.
Either way, Community Bark became one of the few such businesses in the country, and remains the only Wisconsin business that can serve food alongside animals. The regulatory logistics require all coffee and food operations to be in one separate retail space that transports Alterra coffee drinks and pastries to the dog washing area via a glass takeout window.
With such a unique concept succeeding in the heart of Bayside at 326 Brown Deer Road, Patch decided to take a few minutes and soak up some of Appel's entrepreneurial wisdom.
Patch: How did you decide on Bayside in particular? Do you live or have roots in the North Shore?
Appel: I chose Bayside because it's such a nice community: a large dog owner population, about a mile from the dog park. And of course it's great being on such a busy visible corner, right next to Sendiks.
I'm originally from NY, but my wife is from Bayside - her mom still lives in their family home across from Bayside school. We moved back from California to Shorewood to be close to family in beautiful Milwaukee!
Patch: How did you come up with the idea of mixing dog washing and coffee? Is this a new thing for the Milwaukee area?
Appel: It's new pretty much everywhere! We're the first business in Milwaukee that was approved by the health department to have food and animals in the same business. It came about because I wanted to create a comfortable place where dog people could hang out with other dog people.....coffee was the natural facilitator for that.
Patch: You expanded from Bayside into Bayview last summer, which hints business must be good. Is one of the two “Bay” communities more enthusiastic about the coffee/dog washing scene than the other?
Appel: Yes things are going well for the Bark, and our customers have been terrific in both "Bays"! Of course, because we've been in Bayside for 3 1/2 years, and just 8 months in Bay View, people are still learning about us on the South shore, but we're quickly building a similarly, fantastic, loyal group of customers.
Patch: You offer the self-service wash and a full-service wash. Do customers seem to prefer one or the other?
Appel: With a SelfBark, people get to spend quality, family-friendly time with their dogs and bond. With the FullBark, we do all the work while folks can relax with a coffee or run an errand. Either way, all the mess stays with us. Some people switch back and forth, some only do one or the other – it's a pretty even split.
Patch: I’ve heard of people who go to dog parks just to see dogs. Do you ever get people who come in for the coffee without a dog?
Appel: Definitely. We have a nice loyal following of folks who come in for the Alterra Coffee in the morning on the way to work – one side of the business is "fur-free", so they don't have to run into a pup if they don't want to. We even have people come to the dog side just because they want to see the pups that are here – serious dog envy!