When Bar K’s second location opens in the fall, the popular play place for dogs will be ready if another frigid winter is in the forecast, said co-founder Leib Dodell, teasing details of a new 10,000-square-foot indoor dog park at the St. Louis site.
“Dogs love being outdoors, and humans generally like being outdoors — except for when it’s -24 degrees; that makes the business very seasonal,” Dodell explained, noting that the KC location only features an outdoor dog park. “So in St. Louis, and all of our future locations, we’re going to have both indoor and outdoor off-leash space.”
The new location — set to open as early as October — is planned for a 56,000-square-foot warehouse in The Grove business district near downtown St. Louis. Bar K also secured about two acres of green space behind the warehouse, Dodell stated.
Another major difference between Bar K’s original Kansas City location along the Missouri River and its new space: the St. Louis site will offer a dog daycare option for Bar K members.
“It’ll be called, ‘Stay at Bar K,’ and you’ll be able to check your dog into daycare if you want to go to work, school, shopping or run errands,” Dodell said — noting that he and his team eventually plan to add daycare/boarding to the Kansas City location. “We are also offering a grooming salon and dog training classes.”
Those services emerged from a partnership with Kennelwood Pet Resorts — a St. Louis-based pet hotel that offers boarding, grooming and training. Kennelwood is set to operate “Stay at Bar K” in an additional 7,000-square-feet space and be able to serve 100 dogs per day across all of its services, said Meghan Dyonzak — who serves as the marketing director at Kennelwood.
“It’s exciting to be a part of such an innovative concept,” Dyonzak shared. “[Bar K] is unlike anything we currently have in St. Louis. The dog culture in St. Louis is certainly thriving and even more so through adoptions during the pandemic. … Bar K is coming at the right time to provide all these new pet parents with the perfect destination.”
Nicole Blumner from Greet Street St. Louis — the development firm on the project — echoed Dyonzak’s sentiment. It’s the first fusion dog park/restaurant the firm has worked on, but the community’s feedback has been exceptionally positive, she said.
“I never thought there would be so much complexity to doing a project like this,” said Blumner, who serves as Green Street’s senior vice president of development. “It’s very detail-oriented to figure out how you move people and dogs safely and comfortably through all the spaces in the building. Leib [Dodell] adds great insight because he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t.”
Click here to see why Bar K was named to Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2021 list.
To help development move smoothly, Dodell himself is relocating to St. Louis.
“[Bar K’s leadership team and I] want to be engaged personally in every new location just to make sure that we’re delivering the same kind of experience that we’ve done here in Kansas City,” Dodell shared. “The ownership group is here every day at Bar K and fully immersed in the experience. I think that’s a big part of what’s made this successful.”
Dodell is working with Green Street — which will be moving its own offices to the front half of the Bar K building — to set up Bar K pop-ups in St. Louis as early as April.
Bar K has become a canine lover’s cult sensation in Kansas City since it first launched in 2015. Co-founders Leib Dodell and David Hensely transformed their pop-up idea into a two-acre space that infuses an outdoor dog park with a bar, restaurant and performance area for human companions to enjoy.
Click here to learn more about Bar K.
“We are looking to work with some local bars and find a half-acre lot where we can have some dog vendors come in and generate excitement while the permanent location is being built,” Dodell said. “That’s how we got off the ground here [in Kansas City].”
As well as the exciting new additions, Bar K is sticking to what works — like the Seresto Stage for performances, Petfinder Park for adoption days and a carefully curated menu for both humans and dogs.
“We may add toasted ravioli to the St. Louis menu. We were told that is their thing!” Dodell noted, laughing.
At the Kansas City location, Bar K’s outdoor park incorporated shipping containers — each branded by different KC groups.
“We’re doing the same thing in St. Louis,” Dodell said. “We already have a partnership with Kaldi’s Coffee; they’re going to brand a seating area. And then we have multiple other conversations with local businesses. It’s going to be really cool to see it all come together.”
Members of any Bar K location will have access to all locations — even the Oklahoma City Bar K that is only a few months behind progress at the St. Louis site.
“We’re hoping that people will want to take their dogs to experience all the Bar K locations — kind of like how moms and dads will take their kids to see all the baseball stadiums around the country,” Dodell said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.