Canine commerce: Dogs spur business ventures in Oklahoma City's Deep Deuce

Published Sunday, March 12, 2017

Deep Deuce is emerging as not just downtown's most diverse neighborhood, but also is inspiring entrepreneurs to start businesses to cater to the area's fast growing canine population.

Over the past decade, the abandoned surface parking and weed-filled lots have been replaced with apartments, shops, restaurants, condominiums, townhomes and a hotel. And as day turns to dusk each workday, the residents hit the streets, often accompanied by dogs of all sizes.

At the 228-unit Level and 97-unit Mosaic apartments developed by Richard McKown along NE 2, about 18 percent of the residents have dogs living in their apartments. It's an arrangement that McKown anticipated and embraced from the start.

“We are dog friendly by design,” McKown said. “We knew the importance of dogs for the Millennial generation and for social interaction. Everywhere I went in other cities, whenever you found yourself around urban apartments after 5:30 p.m., you found people on the street with decent-size dogs on a leash.”

Not content with responding to that market, McKown last year paid for construction, zoning permitting and maintenance of a dog park nestled against his OKSea shipping container development at NE 2 and Oklahoma Avenue.

“It's used all the time,” McKown said. “I love when I'm leaving my office above Anchor Down (at OKSea) seeing dogs and their owners. It's where people get to know each other. It's building community.”

Those attracted to Deep Deuce include Kelsey Wells, who finds herself often relocating homes due to her job. The one constant for Wells is her golden retriever Molly.

“We moved to Deep Deuce because they allow big dogs,” Wells said. “And that's a bit more challenging to find than for those with a 20-pound dog. This is dog friendly, there are parks near us, so that was good.”

Pooch profits

The growing dog population in Deep Deuce is also creating opportunity for entrepreneurs like Justin Thomas, who got his start downtown seven years ago when he opened the Bricktown Candy Co. His ode to old-time treats and revival of Triple A Root Beer is one of Bricktown's leading retail success stories that also includes vintage pinball games, a gift shop and gelato counter.

For the past few years, Justin Thomas and his wife Kathryn have sought to follow with yet another startup retail business.

“We had gone out to look for some products for our dog, and we saw a store, a concept that had food, treats, toys and a dog wash,” Justin Thomas said. “It was a great concept. My wife looked at me and said, ‘You've been wanting to do something, why not something like this?'”

It was at that same time Thomas learned about the OKSea shipping container development. When he read yet another story in The Oklahoman about the adjoining dog park, he first sought to lease a space at OKSea.

McKown loved the idea, but the concept did not fit at OKSea.

“We didn't have the room for him to do what he wanted to do,” McKown said. “We only had 1,200 square feet at most.”

Another 1,900-square-foot space, however, had remained empty in the west end of the Aloft Hotel overlooking the dog park. Thomas opened Bone Dog Boutique and Dog Wash at 100 NE 2 in December, counting on visits from customers like Wells who stopped by after seeing the shop at the adjoining dog park.

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