If you’re a pet owner, you know how tough it is to leave your furry family member at home when you go out to grab dinner or run errands. You’re in luck! Turns out there’s a plethora of pet-friendly establishments in the lake area, so you don’t have to spend one more second apart. We talked with some of the pet-friendly businesses in town so you can grab a leash and make a list of places to visit this spring.
Gray Home + Lifestyle in Excelsior is home to 11-year-old shop pug Isabelle, who steals the show in-store and on the company’s social media accounts. “We want people to walk into Gray and feel like they are home, but we also treat Gray like it’s our home, too,” says co-owner Chloe Lappen. “It’s important that everyone feels like this space is for them, so they are comfortable and relaxed…Having our shop dog, Isabelle, only enhances that.” Whether Isabelle is basking in the sun at the top of the steps—her favorite spot—or eyeing up customers in hopes of a belly rub, she’s always lightening the mood. The Lappens recently welcomed shop dog Boca, a perfect companion for Isabelle.
So can visitors bring their own dogs? “Yes!” says Lappen. “We often get talking about the customers’ pets (thanks to Isabelle), and we tell them they have to bring their dog next time. It’s very important to us that our customers feel like this is their space and we realize how dogs are part of the family. We also don’t want them leaving [pets] in the car when it’s hot or too cold. It’s a way to further develop our relationships—on a different level—with customers, too.” (Pro tip: Next time your dog is giving you the eye at Gray, ask for a treat. They’re in the back room.)
Just down the street, Lake Effect has an entire dog merchandise section—both online and in-store—and always welcomes furry customers with a smile (and a water bowl filled to the brim). Want to get out on the water or enjoy a tasty treat after all that shopping? Tommy’s Tonka Trolley—which has seasonal kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals in Excelsior—allows dogs on all of its rentals. And they sell smoked meaty bones from Mackenthun’s Meat Market in St. Bonifacius, and Frosty Paws soy-based puppy ice cream, alongside their signature Sebastian Joe’s ice cream (the ice cream’s for humans). “Dairy can give dogs an upset stomach,” reminds owner and dog-lover Tommy Drummond. For the 2017 season, he’s even ordering doggy life jackets in three sizes. Safety first!
Leipold’s Gifts and Antiques is home to Boots the cat, a fan favorite even after-hours. “The window is her favorite spot,” says owner LaVerna Leipold, who admits there have been a few different generations of Boots since the store first went into business in the ‘70s. But she says the current Boots is the friendliest. “If she’s not out, people ask where she is. She goes in and out—is sweet to everybody. Sometimes she sits outside and meows and brings people in!”
At Primp, manager Jocelyn Iwazko says dogs were part of the local chain’s DNA from the beginning. When they opened in 2012, the owner “wanted to establish a place where women can go and feel pampered and feel a part of the community—leaving that door open to everybody, including their pets,” says Iwazko. In a walkable town like Excelsior, welcoming pets means expanding the clientele by amping up the “welcome” factor for guests. “We have a couple of Great Danes and a mastiff in the neighborhood—lots of people out walking their dogs,” says Iwazko. “When people come in, the dogs make a beeline for that treat counter.”
Joey Nova’s in Tonka Bay allows dogs on its seasonal patio and even includes pets in the main affair. The dedicated Puppy Al Fresco menu was developed in partnership with the Excelsior Animal Hospital, Fido’s Pantry and Sparks Design. And though it doesn’t have pizza on it, it’s gluten free and vet-approved.
“We have high standards for our food,” says manager Gary Ezell. “It’s the same for pets.” The whole idea came about when Ezell noticed someone sharing their spaghetti with their puppy on the patio (is anyone else picturing Lady and the Tramp right now?). “It just dawned on me that we needed some pet options. [The pet-owner market] is way larger than what I thought,” he explains. “Pets are like family members.” The menu includes Lotus gluten-free dog food entrees—in three flavors—and pup-friendly dessert in the form of Yoghung ice cream. It’s all available on the seasonal patio, for delivery or takeout. “Our goal is to provide a unique outdoor dining experience for the entire family that satisfies our guests’ grown-up tastes,” says Ezell. Dogs are served in stainless steel bowls—right alongside their owners—and Joey Nova’s has been known to host dog socials and even dog birthday parties. While Ezell admits that some balk (er...bark?) when they first see how the restaurant goes out of its way to appease its four-legged clientele, he says, “once people realize what we’re about, they get it.”
Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille in Minnetonka has a dog-friendly patio—open from April to late October—and brings pups their own water if owners don’t bring it themselves. And while Brightwater Clothing and Gear in Excelsior recently lost its shop dog Stoker, pups are always welcome. (Owner Bill Damberg is a dog person through and through). Excelsior Brewing Co. welcomes dogs both inside and on the patio, and the treats and water bowls are always on tap. And at Excelsior Bay Books, you might spot owner Ann Nye’s dog, Howie, accompanying her to work and keeping a close eye on the well-stocked treat jar. Nye says, “We love pets—and their well-behaved owners!”
(Jocelyn Youngstedt and pooch Kaya peruse the racks at Primp.)