Unleashed Hounds & Hops Is Keeping Their Dog in the Fight
Unleashed Hounds & Hops—the first off-leash indoor dog park, bar, and restaurant in Minneapolis—was open for just six week before the coronavirus pandemic forced a statewide stay-at-home order requiring all non-essential business to close by March 27.
“I feel that a lot of businesses open with flaws and never really get a chance to correct them, and before long, those flaws become permanent,” Carter says. “We were only open for six weeks and, in that time, we learned what was working and what wasn’t. This break has allowed us to reflect and make changes. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this with a better product.”
TCB: Are you able to do any business during the mandatory closure?
Carter | While we do have a full food menu that we are proud of, we know most people come to us for the dog park and the bar. Because of this, we thought it a better decision to close temporarily and not provide takeout or delivery like other businesses.
Q: Is there anything that you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or create new streams of revenue?
A | We have a couple of things going right now that have been easing the pain—somewhat. Our location features a dog tag “wall” where you can have a customized dog tag hung from our fence. It was originally for our crowdfunders who helped us get started on Indigogo. But we have opened this up to the general public now as well. Likewise, on our website, you can pay to have a portrait of your dog hung in our bar area. We commission the portrait from a selection of local artists based on provided photos, and when it is complete, we hang it on the wall. We have around 50 already up from our pre-open crowdfunders, but once again, we have opened it up to the general public so we can add some more. Lastly, like many businesses, we are encouraging gift card sales.
TCB: Do you anticipate your business bouncing back?
A | We cannot wait to be back. We were only open for six weeks before the shutdown, and the support we got was overwhelming. If we can recapture even a portion of that, we would be thrilled. Additionally, we have tried to capitalize on the shutdown. I feel that a lot of businesses open with flaws and never really get a chance to correct them and, before long, those flaws become permanent. We were only open six weeks and, in that time, we learned what was working and what wasn’t. This break has allowed us to reflect and make changes. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this with a better product. We have gotten tons of kind words and a lot of support from our community, and we fully expect to come back even better than before.
TCB: How is employee morale?
A | I think morale is low as a society right now. We have tried to be as open and honest with our employees as we can be about the business, and we have offered them whatever support we can during this time. I think that’s helped keep morale up somewhat, but naturally, I think everyone is just feeling a bit stung by all of this. Almost all of our staff were part-timers who used us for supplemental income, and for those who rely on us for a primary source of income, we have found projects for them to work on from home. Once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, even if we remain closed for a time, we would love to get some staff back on location to help with some projects on site. I think that’s when morale will really start to turn around.
TCB: Any bright spots in this crisis?
A | Our staff have been incredibly understanding and open to helping us in any way possible. We try really hard to create a good work environment but all it takes is a couple bad apples to ruin the bunch. I think we got really lucky in everyone we hired having our same mindset and attitude. That has made this entire process so much easier for us and has pushed us to come out of this thing even better.
On top of that, the work we are doing both inside the space and on the outdoor patio are rounding out the final vision of Unleashed. It has been awesome to see everything that was left on the cutting room floor come back.
Additionally, our landlord, bankers, contacts at the city, and general contractor who did the original work have been amazingly supportive.