FOR a cafe, this is modern and chic. There’s a new coffee machine behind the counter and delicious treats laid out on platters behind glass; cookies, pastry rolls and frosted cupcakes.
But Barker & Bowes, Annacotty, is not just a cafe for us mere mortals. The shortbread tastes like chicken, the cupcakes are ‘pupcakes’, and the oat bites have ingredients like fish oils, pumpkin and mint inside. There are even gluten-free snacks for pooches: ‘pawcakes’.
It’s a one-stop shop for dog-lovers. Stocking high-end doggie products, from coats and leads to food and dog beer, it also houses one of Ireland’s most technologically advanced grooming parlours in the back.
Set up by Dooradoyle natives and neighbours Ellen O’Mahony and Owen Gallagher, the brand new enterprise takes a leaf out of London’s exclusive dog boutiques.
“On Sunday, two ladies met up here, one with two dogs and one with three dogs — and they sat down and had their coffees. It is like being at home. There was a chihuahua sitting right over there,” said Ellen, pointing towards a small cushioned bed.
Every detail, big and small, has been thought of.
Bakers Denis and Mary create the fresh and healthy dog treats, as well as some pooch-themed human treats, which can be taken away in luxurious packaging or gobbled on site. Dog beer, a healthy, fortified, flavoured water to rehydrate dogs who don’t drink enough liquids, is also on offer.
A soon-to-be-installed television will play out Dog TV, programming especially for canine sensibilities. The soothing channel, which uses a lot of the blue and yellow tones that dogs can actually see, will stimulate and relax the dogs who visit.
A machine to diffuse natural oils and scents uses the same fragrance in front of house that is used in Dubai’s Armani Hotel, while in the spa-like grooming area, a lavender scent relaxes the dogs.
The boiler saves water by reusing moisture from the air, and also ensures washing water is at the perfect temperature for pups’ delicate skins.
Equestrian heaters outside, where there’s a walled run to ensure the dogs’ safety and privacy, will make sure that even the ones who prefer the outdoors are kept warm in the chilly weather — “what thoroughbred racehorses are to some people is what dogs are to us,” said Owen.
An on-call nutritionist in the UK can assess customers’ dietary needs on an individual basis, coordinating with the hypoallergenic food — Arden Grange — sold in store.
The floor, made up of what seems like rich boards of mahogany, is not actually wood at all. Clever tiles mean that an accident will never be too hard to clean up.
And Barker & Bowes even has an artist-in-residence, who will create commissioned portraits of beloved pets — as well as photographers who will work on dog photoshoots.
“It’s the kind of thing you’d see in Kensington,” said Owen. “We were looking at these concepts in London, and we reached out to them for advice. Really, we are trying to offer a similar concept in Ireland.”
Through conversation with representatives from a luxury German brand, Cloud7, the business partners realised that dogs are much more integrated in mainstream society in Europe.
“We explained that we wanted to actually include the dogs, bring them into the cafe, and let people socialise with their dogs. It seems that in Germany, that’s much more normal. There’s definitely scope here to change that concept of ‘no dogs allowed’,” said Owen.
“For some people, their dogs are their life, their family members, and it’s like being told, ‘sorry, your child can’t come into the store’. We’ve turned that on its head, and given people a chance to socialise, and meet like-minded people too.”
Ellen said that their target customer is “somebody who actually cares for their dog, and cares about their health and wellbeing”.
“All of these ingredients that our baker uses are all grade A ingredients; the dachshund biscuits are made with coconut oil and flaxseed oil. There are pop cakes that have natural yogurt in to aid digestion, and there are sweet potato and brown rice sticks. It’s all about what’s best for your dog, that’s the most important thing,” she said.
The latest trends and best quality fabrics are the order of the day for clothing and bedding. “We want to curate pieces to cater for everybody,” said Owen.
Ellen added: “If you’re looking for a particular type of item that you can’t find elsewhere, we will source that.”