Visit a few businesses in downtown Lee’s Summit and chances are you’ll meet more than just a savvy owner or an energetic entrepreneur.
More than a half dozen stores in the area count pets as mainstays inside their establishments, and the unofficial numbers may be more. What is known is that the owners – and in some cases their customers – enjoy having the lovable creatures present while they offer goods and services.
“It’s awesome,” said Peggy Brown, owner of Blue Heron Design at 11 S.E. Third Street. Brown’s Chihuahua, Rita, accompanies her to the store daily. “It’s relaxing for me and people like it. We kind of have that common ground. Animals are comforting and relaxing. It’s like people are in my home and it works. It’s great bringing her to work.”
Rita, Brown said, is a constant companion for her and customers alike. That said, don’t ask Brown nor Rita to divulge the age of the tiny dog.
“She won’t say,” Brown said. “I’ve asked her. She’s a lady.”
Twice the size of Rita is Clifford, a cat owned by Jackie and Craig Soltys, proprietors of Summit Sports at 15 S.E. Third Street. Located just a door or two from Blue Heron Design, the Soltys family and Summit Sports have been 11-year-old Clifford’s sanctuary for the last eight years.
“Clifford’s fun and the kids like him,” Jackie Soltys said. “He’s generally very good with kids.”
Soltys concluded the downtown landscape and ambiance allows for pets to accompany business owners with them to the job.
“It such a friendly place,” she said. “We have a nice landlord and landlady that will let us do this. It’s a good area; a friendly area.”
Clifford and Rita are neighbors, and sometimes interact with friendly banter, but Brown said Rita – a dog – is somewhat intimidated by the cat.
“She’s afraid of Clifford,” Brown said with a laugh. “I take her over and I have to hold her. Clifford’s twice her size and he’s a street-smart cat.”
Gold-N-Designs owner Dale Hurt and manager Mary Lerasle each own a dog. Hurt’s 2-and-a-half-year-old Maltese, Peaches, and Lerasle’s 4-month-old Chihuahua, Pixie, are night and day opposites, but bring a certain charm to the business located at 239 S.E. Main Street.
Both Peaches and Pixie were bedazzled in sparkling, custom-made pet jewelry as Hurt and Lerasle expounded on the perks of having their dogs on the clock with them.
“Well, look, I get to pet my dog everyday,” Hurt said as he compassionately petted Peaches on the head. “It’s amazing how many customers have dogs or multiple dogs themselves and other pets and things. It’s kind of a nice ice breaker to talk about things.”
Added Lerasle: “For me, because I live up north, for me to be able to bring her to work with me is kind of nice. It’s nice to be able to have your companion with you. They’re sitting there and happy you’re there with them.”
The bling the dogs sported was inspired by Gold-N-Designs customers, who are often pet lovers themselves, Lerasle said, adding the business just recently started offering pet jewelry.
“So many people come in that have pets and they see our pets and they say ‘oh, you should do doggie jewelry,’” she said. “We thought, ‘well, why not start?’”
Peaches and Pixie’s friend a few doors down on Main Street is Teensie, a 3-year-old Boston terrier owned by Katelyn and Tony Marlow.
The Marlows own and operate Red Door Wine Store, 229 A S.E. Main Street, which is right next to A Thyme for Everything, who’s owner, Jet Pabst, occasionally brings her dog to work.
Other businesses in downtown Lee’s Summit that include the presence of pets include Trinity Tack and Feed, a pet food supplier owned by Ashley Grove, the Community Buying Group, owned by Ben Rao, Vicki Hedberg at Travel Source and Sarah DeGondea at Midwest Vacuums.
“I started bringing her up about six months in to the business,” Katelyn Marlow said of the couple’s dog. Red Door Wine Store opened about two years ago. “She was just so good about it that we kept bringing her up and people seemed to like it.
“The reason she comes up is that we have other dogs loose in the house but she gets into trouble. She gets in trouble when she’s home alone, but she’s easy up here. If I try to leave her at home she gets mad.”
Most pet/business owners in downtown said their customers have been the most supportive, and nearly each of them said that their pets are the real stars of the stores. In the end, as Brown alluded to, having their trusted pets under their watchful eye while they serve the community is therapeutic in some ways.
“She probably has more of a fan base than the store does,” Marlow said of Teensie, the Boston terrier. “People come up just to see her.”
“She likes most people that come in,” Brown said of her dog, Rita. “She likes kids. She loves to come to work. There is something (about pets) that just breaks down barriers. People interact with you and they are just kind of relaxed. For the most part it’s awesome.”