Lafayette rolls out the welcome hydrant

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:49

New dog-friendly attitude encourages shoppers to bring along their pooches, By Beth Kalet Lafayette, N.J. — They have a goal. To put Lafayette on the map as the most dog-friendly place in New Jersey. And this weekend the results of nearly a year of planning, renovating and creating a canine-centric universe will be front and center during a two-day event called Dog Days of Summer. The program on July 9 and 10 is designed to focus attention on the new dog-friendly atmosphere that will remain at Olde Lafayette Village and the Lafayette Mill. It’s all about making sure humans know just how welcoming the region is to them and their dogs. What’s the big deal? Borrowable dog bowls and buckets of fresh water Biodegradable waste bags Signs indicating which stores invite dogs to browse along with their owners A new, state-of-the art grooming salon on site A new, 2,000-sq.-ft. doggie daycare center An off-leash, quarter-acre fenced-in dog run Dog product sections in many shops A walking path for dogs and/or people linking The Mill to the Village Americans love dogs With some 40 percent of households owning dogs, it’s only natural for people to travel with them, whether it’s for a day trip or a vacation. Jen Liu, owner of Fuzzy Nation, is the spark behind making Lafayette so dog-friendly. She knows about Americans’ obsession with dogs. She designs innumerable dog-related products for humans, including dog-shaped purses, slippers, jewelry — all with a whimsical tone. Her Lafayette Village shop is on the flip side of her studio and a way for her to sell and show some items in design. She sells to stores like Macy’s, Barney’s and Harrod’s in London. She has a big European presence and a staff in China. Since coming to Lafayette Village, Liu has taken a shine to the community and became determined to help it sparkle. As tough times hit almost everyone in retail, Liu pointed out, polishing this new angle on the image of both the Village and the nearby Mill area of shops and its cafes, became a mission. “People want places to go and recreate with their dogs,” she said. And since the Village and the Mill are both off the beaten path and literally are parks, the setting is more than appropriate for pets and people. With this new push, they hope to attract people from outside the area as well as those who are passing by, so they know they can make a pit stop at the shopping areas, walk around, let their dog run off leash a bit, grab a bite, and get back on the road. They can even get a bite for their dogs, as some of the shops will be featuring doggie cuisine. “We’ve always had animals here,” said Don Kihlstrom of the Lafayette Mill. The Mill offers a collection of antiques shops and the Millside Cafe. “Eighty percent of the time if you tell someone their pet isn’t welcome, they won’t stay.” He finds that pet-owners are thoughtful about how their pets behave. With the addition of the designated bags, cans and watering spots, both Kihlstrom and Liu think pet-owners will be tickled. A lot of planning went into the new dog-focus. Merchants at both sites are on board. Kilhstrom described the two camps of merchants as non-competitive. The marked walking path between the two destinations, which takes about 10 minutes to traverse, serves to bolster statement. In dogs’ image A newly created doggie day care center is a 2,000-sq.-ft. space. It’s designed to cater to dogs taking a break from their owners for a while. “When you come here, it’s your baby,” Liu said, in recognition of the trust they must inspire in owners. Every dog will get fresh linen and a fresh pillow, and a staff of young, bright and newly trained dog sitters under the supervision of Mark Hutchison will be eagerly waiting to play with or watch over the clients. Hutchison, of Sparta, a self-described stay-at-home dad, has 10 years of experience working as a coach and many more in management, in teaching and volunteerism. He’s bringing his own twin sons, who’ve just completed their freshman year in college, as well as a group of other teens, to the job. Everyone will be trained first by professionals in the field. To keep the costs of day care low for customers, shoppers will get discounts on their day care bill with receipts from purchases at the antiques shops at the Mill and at stores in Olde Lafayette Village. Some may remember The Barkery, a groomer located at the Old Lafayette Village. That business folded. But the location has been gutted and re-outfitted with state-of-the art equipment — think jets built into the walls that dispense shampoo mixed with that water for that perfect dog washing experience. Groomers who have been trained at a boot camp for groomers by Ashley Magura, a PetSmart grooming expert, will be working at the new shop. In addition to this weekend’s program of presentations by experts on dog training, grooming, agility, health care and more, Liu says she is planning many events throughout the year. Get ready for Yappy Hours.

Approximately 77.5 million dogs are pets in the United States.
39 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog.
67 percent of dog owners own one dog
24 percent of dog owners own two dogs.
9 percent of dog owners own three or more dogs
Source: The Humane Society of the United States

Dog Days of Summer
On July 9 and 10, special events for dog-lovers and the objects of their affection will be featured at Olde Lafayette Village and the Lafayette Mill. Dog Days of Summer is a two-day program of dog training, health care and exercise events on the grounds of Olde Lafayette Village.
This hoopla is designed to draw attention to an atmosphere that will remain in place on the grounds and in the attitudes of the merchants at both of the two major Lafayette destinations.