When the famed Beacon Barkery moved next door to its original location at the corner of Main Street and Willow Street, several people just thought it closed, and didn't see its newly decorated storefront window next door. What even more folks didn't know was that the original owners, Libby Faison and Nanci Pate, hadn't been in the Barkery since before the move, as they sold it to Donald McNeal, the father of one of their new employees, Jon McNeal.
Ten years ago, Libby and Nanci opened the Beacon Barkery to give back to the dog and cat populations in Beacon. Through their work within the community, they brought thousands of people and pets to Beacon through such annual events such as the Beacon Barks Parade, which attracted people from all over the state of New York, and was the unofficial kickoff to Spring during the first week of April. The Beacon Barkery became a known destination as a specialty pet boutique for healthy food options, quality clothing, treats, and the owners' experienced advice. For instance, it is to Libby's credit that I eliminated chicken from my dog's diet, as she had developed an allergy to it, causing her to itch and bite her skin, and eventually rip her hair out. Test after test revealed nothing, until one day, Libby suggested cutting out grain and chicken. It was the chicken that did it. My dog was cured and calm. No antihistamines necessary after that.
As of this spring, the Barkery has a new owner. Several business owners in Beacon already know him from his regular rounds, during his full-time job as route manager for a pest control company; Libby knew him as a customer. The Barkery isn't the first business Donald has owned, but he walked into it with similar passion for pets, their communities, and his own family's involvement in running the store.
The Background to the Beacon Barkery
When Libby and Nanci opened the Barkery, they had full-time jobs. They kept those up during all of the years they ran the Barkery, and still maintain to this day. Libby is a school administrator (now mostly retired, but working in the Wappingers School District), and Nanci is an occupational therapist who also works in schools. Two of their children worked in the store. One of them, Becca, even helped manage the store. Would the Barkery have paid the bills if they'd wanted to leave their full-time jobs? "No," says Libby. "There were three kids here and a mortgage. We really opened the Barkery not to make our first million, but to give back to the community on behalf of dogs and cats. We wanted to help the dog and cat population."
So what was the catalyst to selling? There wasn't one! "We were downsizing so that we could start doing some retirement planning." When I texted Libby questions for this story, she responded from Italy, so I asked her if traveling was part of those retirement plans. "Yes, like going to Italy. Honestly, when you own a store, it's really hard to plan a two-week vacation abroad." Jon, one of their recent employees who was quite enthusiastic about The Beacon Barkery, had told his father, Donald, that it was for sale. Jon and Donald were customers on behalf of their pug family, so the pull to own was strong.
New Guys In Town
Though Donald and Jon live in and commute from Hopewell Junction, and are new to Main Street as shop owners, they've been around Beacon's Main Street for a long time. Through his day job, Donald counts several Main Street businesses, including Zora Dora's and Kitchen Sink, as his customers in the pest control business. He's also not new to entrepreneurship, having owned several businesses in the past, including his own pest control business, a barber shop, and even a fire extinguisher company. "I’m an entrepreneur at heart," he says.
It was the Puppia harnesses (pictured above) that first brought Donald into the Barkery. The McNeals are a pug family, owning three of them: Angel, 9 years old, Casper, 1 year old, and Eddie, 6 months old. Says Donald: "We always shopped here, and we first came for the harnesses. We went to a pug meet and I was the only one without a harness. When I went shopping for one, nobody had them, except the Barkery. We always liked the store. After Jon told my wife and I that it was for sale, my wife kept at me, 'When we going to buy the Barkery?'"
The New Beacon Barkery
Much is the same in the store, except that it's one door down, thanks to a rent increase that kicked in shortly after the McNeals moved in. Once the new ownership was transferred into place, the landlord increased the rent, so the McNeals packed it up and moved next door. They quickly painted the new space, set up new lighting, got new decals on the windows, and more. Says Jon: "People are finding us. The Car Show helped us. More customers who aren’t local know about us now, and for the locals, they are passing us in the new store, and they see that we are open."
New product is being carried also, such as Primal Raw Dog and Cat Food, freeze-dried treats, and goats milk. The new Primal refrigerator just arrived, and it will be fully stocked this week. For my picky cat with a chronic ear problem, I tried the raw goats milk at Donald's suggestion. “It's the way nature meant to feed our pets.” I have to say, never having ventured into the raw world myself, my picky cat who drinks no water, drank the milk. New clothing is arriving in the store, and the Beacon Barkery maintains it is the largest carrier of the Puppia and Easy Dog harness lines in the area.
Beacon Barkery To Continue Community Work
As active participants in the pug community, Donald and Jon know the value of socializing among pets, and giving back. "We have had one dog adoption already, and we plan on doing cat adoptions, and more adoptions in general. We would love to work with the new vet." They aim to continue with the Beacon Barks Parade.
What's Next for Libby and Nanci?
Libby and Nanci are not done with their animal work, nor with the Beacon Barks Parade. Says Libby: "We are going to be working with the Beacon Barkery for the Beacon Barks Parade, and will contact the Dutchess County SPCA in 2017. We will be volunteers!"
The Beacon Barks Parade isn't the only thing they are staying connected to. "We miss being in Beacon. We live in Wappingers, and we were down in Beacon every day. Now we are just customers of the Beacon Barkery!"
Advice on Running a Local Store
Libby and Nanci started the Beacon Barkery to improve a community, and it's the community that is the most important for them for running a local business. "It's very important to be part of what's going on, and being active. It also makes it much more fun, when you know your customers and the community. You help each other."
Shop and restaurant owners can often get stuck inside of their stores. Is it important to step outside? "You need to step outside of your shop and be involved. There were times that we had adoptions, and put our tent up out front, and did special kinds of celebrations. Like our Food Fest. The community needs to be able to find you. Beacon's Main Street is a very long Main Street. It's not all that easy for people on the East end to know what's going on the West end."
Cheers, Libby and Nanci, to your new working-retirement! Soon after the sale, Libby and Nanci booked themselves a trip to Italy to enjoy a good two-week vacation, something small business owners rarely experience.
Cheers to Donald and Jon, to your exciting new adventure as owners of the Beacon Barkery and helping so many dogs and cats feel good all over, even in quality fashion!