Story by Sarah Spohn
Puppies and pints? Thanks to the masterminds and adorable doggies of Pup House, Michigan is about to get its first dog park bar.
Erika Hodges (25), and Angela Carlone (26) both have a passion for dogs. Recognizing a gap in dog-friendly entertainment in Michigan, the two brainstormed and came up with Pup House.
“Every night that I am planning to hang out with friends, I either have to leave my dogs at home, and rush home to let them outside, and give them love — or I try and convince my friends to come to my place,” Hodges said. “Eventually, a dog park bar just made sense.”
The business partners have been planning their business for nearly a year, and launched their social media and websites the beginning of March. Branding it a ‘dog and beer lover’s paradise,’ the business is still in the fundraising stages, and is hosting their first event, Mutt Madness, on Saturday, March 23 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Peacock Road Family Farm in Laingsburg, MI.
The indoor pop-up dog park will feature special canine guests, live music, yard games, a dog agility tournament, Picnic A Food Truck, giveaways, and a get-together following, at Lansing Brewing Company.
“The goal of Mutt Madness is to give guests a little taste of the Pup House future,” Hodges and Carlone said. “We are raising funds for our opening, meeting our future customers, and getting feedback from the community.”
A passion for dogs is what brought Hodges and Carlone together. Hodges worked for the MSU Veterinary Medical Center, Capital Area Humane Society, and fosters dogs through New Hope Pet Rescue. Her friends call her the “dog-matchmaker,” and “dog girl” since she’s fostered eight dogs in just six months. Carlone enjoys giving back and helping people, and animals. She also knows how much being around dogs can impact someone’s mood.
“Mental health has always been something I have been interested in, and believe that being around animals has a huge impact on our moods,” Carlone said. “Pup House creates an environment for people to go that love dogs, but are not able to have them. Being around dogs, even if you’re sitting there having a beer, and watching them run around, can boost someone’s mood.”
Pup House will serve beer as a 21+ up bar, serving a market that is otherwise lacking in dog-friendly nightly entertainment. There are 32 dog-friendly eateries and bars in Lansing, according to Bring Fido — a pet friendly hotel and dog travel directory. Only a portion of those locations serve alcohol, and require dogs to be on a leash on the patio.
In searching for locations for Pup House, the mitten state made sense for these two Michiganders.
“Michigan is ideal as well because of our unpredictable weather. Michiganders are tough and will brave the tundra to watch their dog frolic in the snow, but if they need a break from the cold or the rain, then our indoor facility will solve their problem,” Carlone and Hodges said. “Lansing is a desired location because of the large number of millenial and dog-owners. Millenials take dog-parenting to a whole new level and we assume will make up a big segment of our customer base.”
Pup House plans to have an indoor turf, up to 10 acres of outdoor park with an off-leash fenced area for dogs (small and large), agility obstacles, and more. There will be no breed restrictions, as Pup House hopes to bring all dogs to the party — built on friendship and sustainability. Giving back to the community is also a strong focus of the business.
“We want to build the community by working side-by-side with local businesses,” Carlone and Hodges said. “Michigan’s craft beer scene is phenomenal, and we plan to tap into that. Small businesses in the area are supporting us, and we want to return the favor.”
Pup House founders, equipped with digital marketing and graphic design degrees, have received assistance through LEAP, Loomis Law, and the Small Business Development Center. Through networking, the entrepreneurs are learning all about insurance, beer distribution, sanitation, infrastructure, and more.
“We have learned an astronomical amount,” the pair said. “The amount of support, advice, and love we have received from this community is hard to put into words, and we know this will just grow. We have learned how drastically Pup House is needed in Michigan. Every person we’ve talked to about our business has lit up with excitement, and expressed the same woes we have about leaving our dogs behind when we go get beers or meet up with friends.”
Leah Thrasher, owner of Omaha Dog Bar, has also been crucial to helping Pup House come to fruition. “She has provided us with priceless advice, and been our cheerleader through this process. She is a great inspiration to us, and we love the support of another female, dog mom, entrepreneur,” Hodges and Carlone said.
Pup House is on-track to open in 2020. They’re planning a few more pop-up fundraiser events in the upcoming months. Mutt Madness is this Saturday, March 23 from 1 to 5 p.m. The first 50 tickets purchased will receive a Pup House t-shirt. Tickets are $25 for humans, and $5 for dogs. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit Pup House’s website.