Mall gets menagerie?
For nearly 14 years, a small specialty shop at the east end of the Downtown Mall has kept cat lovers purring with all manner of goods with feline themes. Now fans of two other species have a reason to woof and whinny.
On June 1, the Dog and Horse Lovers Boutique will open just a block from the Cat House. But despite their proximity, owners of both stores say they won't be fighting like cats and dogs.
"She's been really helpful and very welcoming," says Dog and Horse owner Sharon Nichols of Cat House owner Elizabeth Hurka, who Nichols says has assisted her in finding unusual vendors.
Nichols, who's moving to Charlottesville from Middleburg, has had an organic pet treat business for the past seven years and is the former regional manager of Plow & Hearth.
Opening a pet-centric store of her own is something she has spent the last seven years planning, and she decided Charlottesville would be the perfect location. "I love the charm and the history, the vibrant town that Charlottesville is," says Nichols, "in conjunction with all the horse farms that surround it."
Nichols grew up with horses, dogs, and cats and has all three pets to this day, but she bypassed cats out of respect for Hurka. "I didn't want to step on her toes," she says.
In addition to dog and horse apparel for smitten owners, Nichols will offer decorative "party collars" for dogs, and animal-themed ceramics, jewelry, and stationery, as well as spa products including shampoo, "paw rub," and toothpaste for dogs. A corner of the store will even allow customers to make their own doggie birthday cake and party hats. And then there are the social opportunities.
"I'm going to have monthly 'Yappy Hours,'" says Nichols, who adds that dogs will always be welcome in the store. There will also be special shopping night where dogs and owners get a treat and can check out the latest styles on Nichols' miniature black poodle, Higgins, who will be "modeling" some of the wares, Nichols says.
Although the new store hasn't opened yet, Nichols says she's already had many inquiries and believes the demand for her products will be high from people who love pets. "A lot of us treat them like our children," she says, "and they deserve to be."