Two entrepreneurs find a doggy-duds niche in high-end, fashion-oriented Manhattan.
By Lizett Bond
Having worked in the canine industry for more than 20 years prior to opening their boutique in Manhattan’s trendy Carnegie Hill district, Jeffrie Silverstein and Frankie Foronjy knew they needed a special niche in order to stand apart from competitors. Raising Rover & Baby opened in December 2006, offering an eclectic array of puppy and baby boutique items, toy and teacup puppies, as well as more traditional merchandise. They also provide grooming and boarding services.
“Carnegie Hill is very family oriented,” Silverstein says. “People have large apartments where they can keep dogs and they have children as well. Because we cater to puppies and babies, no one leaves without buying something.”
“We have baby onesies and matching T-shirts for the dogs,” Silverstein continues. “A doggy shirt might say, ‘I’m cuter than the baby,’ while the baby shirt says ‘I’m cuter than the dog.’ Our boutique carries every type of product you could want, including sweaters, coats and pajamas for the dogs. We have dog carriers that match the diaper bags and little dresses that match the dog clothes. We even offer a selection of antique dog statues, as well as antique dolls.”
The store presents a unique approach with its own mix of product that doesn’t exist at larger pet-supply retailers. Stocking items of the highest quality, including organic dog food, and providing information about these special goods, allows customers the opportunity to select superior products that cannot be found elsewhere. Many of the boutique items showcase Silverstein and Foronjy’s own designs.
“A mom-and-pop boutique cannot compete with the large chain stores and we don’t try,” Silverstein explains. “We merchandise with products that can’t be found in those stores. There is a Petco six blocks away. I don’t want someone to be able to shop there and then come here and see the same thing.”
Realizing that not everyone is shopping for boutique items, they stock a basic line of merchandise, such as brushes, combs, collars and leashes.
"We have every type of quality product you could want. We love our clients. They are our friends as well as our customers."
~ Jeffrie Silverstein
AT A GLANCE
Raising Rover & Baby
Location: New York City
Owner: Jeffrie Silverstein & Frankie Foronjy
Size: 2,000 square feet
Employees: 3 full time, 3 part time
Years in Business: 3
Products and Services Offered: dog clothing and children’s clothing; dog bags and diaper bags; full scale pet boutique with many items under their own label; grooming, doggie daycare; dog walking.
The entrepreneurs also own an interior-design company; they drew from that expertise to create a distinctive ambiance. Shelves, counters and displays feature white glass tile from Japan; countertops are Italian black granite. The 2,000-square-foot store resides in a protected historical building. The restored original tin ceiling complements exposed inner brick walls, which date from the 1880s.
“This store is gorgeous,” Silverstein notes.
Glass showcases house the store’s puppies and are very accessible. Silverstein says having the puppies in the glass showcases is enough to delight neighborhood children. They can see the puppies behind the glass and are able to play and interact through the glass.
“Our store is very kid friendly” Silverstein notes. “Without the kids and the dogs it’s nothing. After school, all the nannies come in with the children.”
The puppies come from quality breeders with whom the owners have become acquainted over the years. Customers are able to contact breeders directly with questions. Providing superior quality and care is the main objective in every aspect of their business.
“We have an enormous amount of traffic and don’t let everyone touch our puppies,” Silverstein explains. “They are small and fragile breeds. We do all the handling of the dogs.”
For puppy sales, they are careful in placing the dogs in the right home.
“We ask lots of questions,” he says. “We are a boutique that won’t sell to just anyone and are careful of the home they go to.
Prospective puppy owners receive guidance toward a breed that might be a good fit.
“We have had parents come into the store with children who are just too rough with the puppies and we will suggest they come back, maybe in a year, and try it again,” he adds. “Most parents respect that.”
Puppies of similar size share housing space, and receive lots of toys and treats to ensure they are happy. The store usually carries an average of 15 puppies at one time.
Another aspect of Raising Rover & Baby is its Doggie Day Spa. Dogs can come to the day spa for a manicure, pedicure and grooming, and stay on in daycare.
Involvement within the community is equally important to the store’s owners. Donating merchandise to local animal shelters is a way of working hand in hand with facilities in the area. They also work with shelters to place larger dog breeds into homes.
“We do not promote the purchase of large breed dogs,” Silverstein states. “There are too many at the shelters. You will not find the teacup breeds at the shelters but you will find a lot of the larger breeds.”
By encouraging prospective customers who are looking for large-breed dogs to visit local animal shelters, the owners actively support dog adoptions. In addition, they offer a free grooming session to anyone adopting a dog from a shelter. Silverstein adds they also keep some rescue dogs for adoption.
“If a dog is going to be put to sleep, we’ll take it in and find a home,” he says.
Since the boutique is in a neighborhood with many private schools, its connection to the community goes a step further.
“We sell little doggy T-shirts with the school names and logos,” Silverstein explains.
In addition, requests for donations to school fundraisers are common.
“We have received honors from local schools because we donate to their fundraisers,” he notes. “I never say ‘no’ to a request.”
Employees also play an important role at Raising Rover & Baby. Training is informal and “on the job.” Silverstein explains they want their employees to have a certain style and a flair for fun.
“I watch how our employees interact with customers,” he says. “I want them to be charming. They either have that or they don’t.”
Silverstein reports Raising Rover & Baby’s business is steadily increasing, and he and Foronjy are happy with their special niche. He attributes much of their success to community involvement and customer service.
“If I have a client bring a dog in for grooming, I might say ‘she’s so pretty, let me keep her for the day,’ and then I watch the dog for the day and I don’t charge them,” he says. “Customers love that.”
Silverstein believes Raising Rover & Baby benefits more from these goodwill gestures toward the community than by more traditional advertising methods. Breaking into the community, becoming involved through donations and making friends within the neighborhood have been the best marketing policies for Raising Rover & Baby.
“We are steady, going strong,” he asserts. “We did advertise for the first six months after we opened but it really didn’t bring anything that we needed.”
Looking ahead, the owners are planning a website, which is in the works, and opening another location.
“There are other puppy boutiques in Manhattan, but we are different,” Silverstein emphasizes. “We really care about our puppies and make sure they are happy. They come from reputable breeders. We have every type of quality product you could want. We love our clients. They are our friends as well as our customers,” he adds.
Silverstein and Foronjy have definitely found their niche. <HOME>
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.