Episode 20: Leib Dodell – Bar K

Leib Dodell

Bar K is a unique new destination combining a thoughtfully designed, fully-staffed dog park with a modern bar, restaurant, and event space. Bar K brings engaged, community-minded people and their dogs together to share connections with their pups and each other in a joyful and creative space. The first Bar K opened in August 2018 on the Riverfront in downtown Kansas City. More locations are planned around the country.


Learn more about Bar K

Check out their website at https://www.barkdogbar.com/


Follow Bar K on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barkdogbar

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/barkdogbar/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barkdogbar

Hi everybody, I’m lab doodle and you are tuned into the Animal Innovation show. You’ve tuned into the Animal innovation show where we feature people, products, services and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them live better lives if it’s innovative and if it helps animals, you can find it here first. So get ready. Here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals. So you’re trying to make this experience right? And we all love our dogs, and it’s not just a dog park anymore, right? And it’s not just a restaurant with my dog. It’s like this combination of, it’s an entire, it’s an entire community and that word experience is exactly right. It’s like one of the most experiential destinations you can imagine. There’s just so much going on here, it’s so joyful. People are so engaged with one another and with their dogs. And the thing I want to emphasize is that so much bigger and grander than probably what your audience is imagining. You know, you hear dog park bar, anything in the sports bar with some wood chips in the back and you know, that’s not what we’ve created here. We’ve got two acres, we have a stage with music performances, we have unique play equipment, we have meeting spaces, we’ve had everything from dog birthday parties to full on weddings with bridal gowns and efficient and dogs. I mean everything that you can imagine doing now you can do with your four legged friends do. So I actually have a little video of what the experience is like. I would love to show for folks, but I think it will help everybody kind of visualize this a little better. So this is our, our building. So what we’ve done this was what we call found space. This was literally a dumping ground. You see the bridge in the background were partially under a large highway bridge, which for most developers would be an obstacle. But for us it provides shade on hot days, it provides shelter when it’s raining. And then we built this structure out of repurposed shipping containers because sustainability is really important to us. Plus we’re in this very industrial part of the city, so it just, it fit perfectly with the surroundings. And you see downtown Kansas city literally right behind us. It’s a stone’s throw behind us. So we were able to utilize this found space and turn it into a community meeting place for people and dogs. You can see just how expansive it is. We check people in when they come in, you either an annual member of bark a or you’re buying a day pass. So we know that dogs are, we make sure they’re vaccinated. These are all pre covid images. Obviously, of course we’ve got a large indoor space for humans only with great cocktails, housemaid food. And then of course the magic is in the park. Yeah. And we’ve got this enormous space and the joyfulness of the environment is something that you really have to be present to appreciate. And we have our staff in the parts of the woman you see in the background of the blue. Sure, it is one of our dog tenders. Their job is to supervise the play. They’re all trained in dog behaviour. They can intervene before a conflict escalates and just keep the place safe and harmonious. We have all kinds of events. That’s doh gah, it’s actually there’s a sunday morning class that’s going on right as we speak out in the park. It’s a, you know, all ages. So we have everything from seniors, two young kids, that’s our doggy jungle gym and it’s just an example of some of the unique place structures we’ve created. That’s actually Travis Kelsey, the chief’s great, tight end dancing on our stage. We have all kinds of events on the stage. The stage is kind of the centerpiece, everything from music to speakers, that’s matt from were eight dogs. Some of you guys may know, we rate bugs, um, bands. It’s just uniquely joyful experience. Obviously a lot of our dogs and chiefs fans. Yeah, of course. And then you’ll see this, this is what has become known as a bark, a pass out. So after the dogs spend a couple hours at market, our guests have created this hashtag mark a pass out. If you search that hashtag, you’ll get hundreds of pictures of dogs like snoozing after spending some time at the park. So folks would enjoy seeing that, Get a better idea of what the experience is all about. Yeah, It really brings it to life. You can really see and immerse yourself in it. Now. Tell me about the sustainability aspect of, I mean, rebuilding this out of old shipping containers is a really smart idea. Thanks. Yeah, we love the aesthetic of it and we love what it stands for, which is, you know, we’re not cutting down a lot of trees and putting up a lot of sticks and we’re repurposing those are authentic. I think those are either five year, 10 year containers. We picked them off the lot ourselves. Like there are these huge lots, you probably driven by him, right? And there’s just stacks and stacks of containers that’s like a candy store for containers and 17 of them went into making that campus that you just saw. And even the turf that you saw, that artificial turf is reclaimed like high school sports field that we’re able to repurpose. And you know, I don’t know if people were able to notice the recycling stations throughout the facility or even trying to come up. We haven’t solved this yet. We’re trying to come up with a way to repurpose the poop that we’re producing and you know, some type of composting solution or something like that. So it doesn’t go into landfill. So if any viewers have an engineering solution for that, please reach out. That’s a really smart idea because obviously you’re going to have a lot of that with all the dogs and stuff that come in now. How you said it’s on multiple acres. I mean how many people at one time? A lot. So it’s um, you know, we’re right now and get coming into spring, right? We’re coming off a brutally cold winter, but we’ve had beautiful weather the last couple of weeks. So, you know, yesterday was a saturday and I believe we had, I just looked it up about 925 dogs come through and about 2000 people over the course of a day. Um, the entire day on a beautiful spring weekend, there’ll be a line of people outfront to get in because we’re at capacity. So I think what, you know, you call that proof of concept that, you know, people are craving this experience where you can actually bring your dog and because we all feel guilty, right when we leave our dogs at home and we go, we want to meet our friends or go to a coffee shop and do some work or watch a game and you know, especially on a week day, come home from work and your dog’s been alone most of the day, right? And you know you’re you’re in that you have that awful choice of like why do you spend time with your little best friend? But you want to meet your other human friends or you want to go grab a drink or something and it’s an awful choice and it’s not a necessary choice because we’ve come up with a way where you can do both. I mean that’s really what mark is all about solving that problem. Yeah. Now how long has bark a been around? So this location that you just opened in august of 2018, so about 2.5 years. But while it was being built, we actually did a little pop up in an abandoned warehouse. We were in there legally, we didn’t just like take over apparent, but I guess empty is a better word. And we found an empty warehouse and we just turned it into an into a dog park. We build a little makeshift bar out of shipping pallets and we just turned it into a little pop up dog park and people loved it. It became kind of a cult sensation. It had no heat and no air conditioning, it was very basic, but it proved us that people wanted this kind of an experience. So then by the time we moved into our permanent location, we had already built a community, I think we had 800 members already, by the time we opened the permanent location, so we were pretty confident that this was something that people were going to embrace and now we’re poised to expand. You know, we’ve got a second location and development in ST louis okay. And the third one in development in Oklahoma City. and the plan is to take this concept around the country. We, we really think chris if this could be like top golf for dog lovers, that’s kind of how we’re conceptualizing this. You know, everybody is familiar with success at top golf has had building an experience around people’s passion for golf right now. You can include your kids, your spouse, your partner, um, your friends, but we think there’s even more dog lovers and there are golf lovers and hopefully even more passionate about their dogs and golfers are, I’m not a golfer, I realized that could be sacrilegious to some golfers, but we think that’s the magnitude of the opportunity that we have. Yeah, each location is year round, right, I mean they were going to open in the summer and how does that work? I mean, everything is a great point. So in Kansas city, as you just saw, all of our awfully space is outdoors, I have indoor space for humans only. So we still think there’s a great value proposition even in cold nasty weather, because most dogs are still happy to be outside and thus frail humans. We can go inside and warm up and get a hot chocolate or an adult beverage and go back outside. But it’s still as you can imagine, makes the business fairly seasonal. But all of our future locations will have both outdoor and indoor off leash space, so that will make it even more of a value proposition and bad weather. I mean, imagine if you were in a cold weather market like Milwaukee and you had a place in the middle of winter where you can take your dog to burn off some energy in a temperature controlled fun environment that’s pretty powerful. So that’s the future model of what we’re going to build. We know you love animals, but maybe you’re not sure how you can get involved to help save the hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs needlessly euthanized every year. Did you know there’s one place you can go to to sign up as a volunteer transporter foster or even social ambassador for rescue animals, Joubert dot com is custom built by animal rescuers for animal rescuers. You simply create a profile and choose the ways that you can help do, but is proud to support more than 5000 rescues and shelters and more than 30,000 duper tears just like you working to save animals, join us and you can save lives, simply go to www dot google dot com to get started today. Very cool. Now take us back to the point where you came up with this idea. Oh gosh, yeah, so, you know, I had a normal career, I’m actually a lawyer by background and I was sort of minding my own business and I’m an old man. So I had a long 20 year career in law and then I actually moved over to the insurance industry and was running some specialty insurance businesses. But I was always also crazy dog guy, you know, I never had kids. So my dogs, three dogs and that’s my family, like many people probably watching this podcast and we would go to a lot of dog parks, you know, sometimes two a day and the feel it felt so limited, the experience just seems so lacking. I mean, you know, there’s no gatekeeper to ensure that it was safe. There’s no lights, there’s no comfortable place to sit there, often poorly maintained because cities have limited resources and certainly no place to get a drink or a bite to eat or work on your laptop. But yet they’ll be packed with people wanting to have a social experience with their dogs. And so I just, we’re just scratching my head wondering why people haven’t been creating a better experience. I now know why because it’s so hard. Five years ago with a business partner, we just decided to make that that leap that every entrepreneur knows very well where you just say, you know what I mean? They’re all in or I’m not in and we decided to go all in and make this happen. It took us about two years to find the site and then another year to get it built and open and you know, now now we feel we’ve got a blueprint where we can really take this concept around the country. Yeah, I was going to say you probably learned a lot from, I mean you had ideas like you said, that went into the first location and then you learned what worked, what didn’t what was easy? What was hard? It’s funny because so many people have come up to me, you know, they come to bark and they’re like, you stole my idea. Everybody’s had this idea like you go to a duct work and you’re like, what would be great if I could grab appear right now, right? But you know, there’s that old expression about like 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. I think it actually overstates the importance of inspiration. Yeah, it’s all perspiration. So, you know, it’s all about trying to execute this concept and regulatory challenges because dogs and you know, restaurants, that’s not a something that regulators are fond of. So we had to spend a long time working with our local health officials just to get permission to do this. You know, a lot of people don’t know this, but in most jurisdictions, so I have to use my fancy legal words, they can’t help myself. But in most cities, um, illegal to have a dog, even on an outdoor restaurant patty, it now, it’s rarely enforced because nobody wants to be that, you know, no regulator wants to be that person, but it is enforced from time to time. And Kansas City was one of those cities where you couldn’t have a dog legally on a restaurant, patio, food was served. So we had to negotiate a variance from that and agreed a whole bunch of conditions. You know, things that you would imagine that dogs would have to be on a leash and they couldn’t go through the indoor space to get to the patio and waste had to be removed immediately in the area sanitized and we have to have an outdoor mop sink and all the reasonable things. So we actually became the first business in Kansas city to legally be able to have dogs on a restaurant patio. So you know, just, you know, you talk about barriers to entry. I mean it’s learnings like that, that I think or what the real value is of getting this first prototype up and running. And now you’ve got this big vision like you said to have these in all of the cities. So is this a franchise thing or you’re going to replicate the same model? I mean, how’s it going? So we’re locally owned company here in Kansas City where the ultimate sort of seat of the pants start up and the plan for now is not yet franchise. I mean we want to get this down before we, you know, turn the box over to somebody else to operate. So these are going to be corporate owned and operated. I’m personally relocating to ST louis for, you know, probably a year while we get the location to build and up and running, it’s our tentative grand opening will be this october, so it’s happening, passes under, it’s under construction as we speak and it’s going to be, you know, it’s going to be absolutely spectacular. I could show folks some images because it’s really going to be like the two point oh version of what we’re doing. Yeah. And I think what’s really cool about what you’re doing is that the sustainability aspect is really unique and it’s something I’ve not seen before and what people do when they do different concepts and I really like that. so you’re giving people the opportunity to be with their animals in a sustainable environment, you’re reusing as much as you can, recycling all those other things that are just really make this stand out from the rest and, you know, our audience, those things are important to them, you know, I think dog people as a segment of the population at large, er you know, I tend to be more environmentally conscious and socially conscious, and those things matter, and so we know that’s our audience, same thing with our food, you know, were we try to do locally sourced ethically farmed food wherever possible, We have a scratch kitchen, we make everything in house, and, you know, that all it’s part of the brand of, kind of who we are as a business, so this is where we’re gonna be located in ST louis. So for those viewers who know ST louis, this is a neighborhood called the Groves. This is forest park in the top left corner of this larger image. So right smack dab in the middle of the city, very urban environments, still pretty industrial, but you know, you’re starting to see lots and breweries and so we’re gonna, again, with this theme of repurposing, we’re gonna take this existing 56,000 square foot warehouse, absolutely beautiful old building, and we’re going to convert it into this, which I get excited just looking at the images. So, this is again, two acres of outdoor space behind the building. Lot of the same features that you saw in that video of Kansas city will have a stage with a beer garden, left all this outdoor space for the dogs and the people to run around and and socialize and these uh shipping containers for seating areas. And we also have this area and I didn’t show it in the video of Kansas city, but we have an area called Petfinder Park, which is a little separately enclosed space. It’s about 4000 square feet where we have adoption events every weekend. So we invited different local rescue organization every weekend to come to bark a bring. Some of their rescue dogs have their own separate space because you know, some of these dogs, we don’t know them well enough to have them engaging with the general audience here and we try to get him homes. We find that if you give somebody a cocktail and a puppy, you can close the door pretty quickly. And then what’s unique about this next location is this indoor space? So in addition to the outdoor space, you just saw it will have 10,000 square feet of indoor off leash space, that shipping containers, A little bar that will be plunked in the middle here as you can get a beverage while your dogs playing around in here. And these are giant garage doors in the back that are nice weather. We can open up to make it one continuous space. So on nasty days you’ll still be able to bring your dog to bark a and get your dog to burn off some of the cBgbs. So it’s gonna be pretty spectacular. What would you do if your cat stop breathing? Would you be able to check their pulse or perform rescue, breathing and CpR in time to save their life. Getting certified in cat first Aid and CPR is essential to being prepared in case of an emergency. That’s why the Animal Rescue Professionals Association teamed up with Denise fleck the pet safety crusader to bring you the courses and certifications you need to be prepared. Their cat first aid and CpR course will teach you what you need to know about how to find your cats, pulse and respiration rates, and how to conduct rescue breathing and see pcr if required. You also learn how to deal with other emergencies, like snakebites, bee stings and tick removal. So you can render the age or pet requires, learn more at www dot animal rescue professionals dot org and get certified today. It seems like you learned a lot from that first location and things now that you wanted to add on and how you’re going to continue to build out the concept. So what’s the future look like? You know, hopefully bark a in every city, I mean, we really think it becomes an indispensable part of the lifestyle of the dog and the owner, especially in urban areas, Right? I mean we all love our dogs and we want them to live their best lives, but there just aren’t a lot of resources. And so your dog gets a walk around the block in the morning and walk around the block in the evening. And it’s not the perfect lifestyle for a dog. Dogs. You want to run and jump and climb and engage in sniffing. So we think this can be a little urban oasis in the middle of urban environments where dogs can get their recreation and humans can do what they love to do, which is, you know, engaged with one another in a joyful, safe space. And what I love about the businesses that, you know, it’s just a authenticity to it. You know, and you don’t, one thing that you don’t see it, mark A is like if I can do this on, you don’t see people like this like, you know, phone and other unless you’re taking a picture or video of your dog that happens quite a bit like people are engaged with each other and new friendships are being formed and it’s, you know, very multicultural environment. It’s, you know, dog lovers are every segment of the population and so breaks down barriers and there’s just so much potential for this kind of an experience to grow around the country. So Labour. I’m curious. I mean you’ve had a very long extensive career before this. What have you learned about yourself in this process of becoming an entrepreneur? I’m old. This is like, you know, this is an intense, I’ve actually started insurance businesses and this is a million times harder because first really doing something that’s never been done before, you want it to be great. And so you know, I’ve also learned that I can be maybe a little unrealistic lee demanding on my team because I want everything to be great and you know, capital G great and you know that whole expression is overused but really is true that you know the good is really is the enemy of the great and there are so few great. I mean, yeah, I would ask you chris like when’s the last time you went out and had what you would consider a great experience. You know, there are plenty of good businesses out there and it’s you know, you have a fine time and the food is good and the service is good, but you know where you leave there and you just stepped blown away by some, you know, you just experienced something brand new, you never experienced before. Doesn’t happen all that often. I can tell when somebody’s at bark a for the first time because I just see that look on their face and their jaws sort of slack and their eyes are really big and they’re just because there’s so much happening and your animals can’t process it at first. So I’m sort of dodging your question about myself. But you know, I I really this hopefully, you know, we’re going to create something really great here with this business model. I’m really excited for what you’ve done. So I mean if people want to learn more, where can they go, how can they get in contact with you? So bark a dog bar is all of ours handles that. The word you young people used to like the website, facebook, all our social, it’s all bark a dog bar because bark a just makes bark and everybody’s already got it. So if you go to the website, you can get lots of information mom on there, my contact and close on there. You know, unlike a lot of businesses, we welcome people to reach out to the leadership team. Like if you haven’t, we get lots of emails from folks in different cities around the country saying this is really cool. I want to learn more about you did this, you know, most of time, it’s because they want to do something similar. So we have to be a little careful about, you know, how much to share, but I always want to help other entrepreneurs and honestly like anything that helps give dogs and people more opportunities to wreck create together as a positive thing. So we’re always happy to help. And often it leads to collaborations that are, you know, unexpected, just like getting to know you and all the work that you do in the rescue community is going, I’m sure lead down the road to all kinds of interesting collaborations. So, so yeah, go to a bark a dog bar dot com or any of our social sites. One cool thing on facebook, you know, we obviously have our facebook page, but then our customers created a page called bark regulars. We had absolutely nothing to do with and they just use it to share information among themselves. Who is going to bark a today? Whose dog was this? My dog really love playing with your dog. You know, how muddy is it today? Things like that. And they curate it very carefully to make sure that people in there really are people that come and it’s up to 1300 members. So you got to think that’s the envy of any kind of B to C brand to have your customers that engaged or they are going to create that environment for themselves. Right? So again, it, it just tells you the power of dogs to like create this unique community. Yeah. I would also say anybody who’s in Kansas city, please come see us. We’re so easy to get to because we’re right in the middle of city, right off the highway. People who are traveling, we get a lot of people that are traveling across the country with their dogs and they’re just, you know, they’re googling hey dog friendly patio in Kansas city and they find bark A and then they can come here and they spend a couple hours a tire, their dog get a great meal and then get back on the road. So please come visit us. If you’re in the neighborhood when you have these across the country, they can just go from one city to the next. I’m hoping that’s, that’s my retirement plan is an RV with my dogs. Just going from one market to the other, terrorizing the staff. This is really great. I’m really excited for the opportunity to talk with you. Is there anything else you want to mention before we wrap things up? No, but likewise appreciate the opportunity and grateful for all the work that you do to support the rescue community and together we can make this a better world for people and dogs. That’s what it’s all about. Um, look forward to collaborating very nicely stated. So thank you for that and we’ll just remind our viewers and listeners that if you’ve got an idea for an innovative private service or even just an idea, somebody I should talk to just go to innovations dot show and let us know about it so late. Thanks again for coming on today. It was great to talk to you guys. Thanks again. Bye everybody. Thanks for joining us for the animal innovations show. If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out Dilbert dot com, where you can join tens of thousands of duper tears, supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals. And if you know if something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to www dot innovations dot show.


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