Harlem Doggie Day Spa is more plan a place where people can drop their pups off for a haircut. The business has worked hard to be a part of the community, owner Brian Taylor says, and an initiative from the NYC Department of Small Business Services wants to make sure it and other local shops stay around.
Through its NYC Love Your Local effort, Small Business Services is awarding $1.8 million in total grants to help 20 New York City neighborhood businesses with project funds and expert advice. The small businesses will receive grant awards of up to $90,000.
Harlem Doggie Day Spa is one winner, and Taylor said he cried when he first got that news.
“Grants like this help local businesses continue to keep their doors open,” he said.
He first applied for the grant two years ago, outlining his ultimate vision for his business on the application. Harlem Doggie Day Spa offers grooming and dog walking along with day care services and cage-free boarding for both dogs and cats when pet owners go away, all within a 1,000-square-foot space with a small backyard.
Taylor needs a bigger space, he said, so he can service more pets, and the grant money could help make that a reality. He also wants to get his mobile grooming service off the ground and expand his work with a summer youth program that trains at-risk kids as interns.
“In New York, the hardest thing to get is commercial real estate. First you gotta have a whole lot of money, you gotta commit, you gotta pay that rent,” he said. “If a business is not doing well in two years, you’re basically out.
If you have a good track record and a couple of years of turning profit, you’re in a better position, but “you might need a boost to help you get here,” he added, and that’s where grants like this come in.
Beyond Harlem Doggie Day Spa: How SBS grants show importance of NYC small businesses
Harlem Doggie Day Spa has been in Hamilton Heights for eight years. Taylor lives across the street from the small businesses and before that, lived right above it so that he could watch the boarded dogs overnight. (Now he and his team rotate that duty, he said.)
The shop has partnered with local organizations like the annual Hamilton Heights pet parade and started a “no poop left behind” effort to keep the area’s streets clean. Being so ingrained in the neighborhood makes his business more personal, he said.
“I love when I walk around and see the dogs I have groomed,” Taylor said. “[Their owners] can talk to me because I live right on that same [block], that’s the fun thing.”
Before Harlem Doggie Day Spa, Taylor was in banking, but it wasn’t his passion. This is, and it’s that effort from all small businesses, he said, that makes New York City neighborhoods so great.
Brian Taylor in front of his business. Instagram/@harlemdoggiedayspa
“I shop at my local deli because it’s convenient for me, and I know my barber and I know my dry-cleaning guy. I know every single one of them … and at the end of the day, I appreciate them,” he said. “When you go to these places and see people passionate about what they’re doing, it’s part of what the neighborhood is. When you take that away, then what?”
This push to help New York City small businesses is especially important around the holidays, Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services, said in a statement.
“We’re dedicated to helping longstanding businesses navigate an ever-changing city because we recognize the valuable role of local businesses in our neighborhoods,” he said. “NYC Love Your Local celebrates small businesses as the backbone of our neighborhoods and I encourage all New Yorkers to continue the celebration by shopping small this holiday season.”
NYC Small Business Services grant winners
The SBS grants are awarded to New York City small businesses that have been open at least three years, and will help fund efforts including employee training, updating technology, enhancing the business location, improving financial management and more.
After this announcement of the winners, local business owners can apply now for a second round of grants, the city said.
The 20 NYC Love Your Local grant awardees are:
Diane Gordon Catering
Harlem Doggie Day Spa
Suteishi Japanese Restaurant
The Mermaid Inn
The Mermaid Oyster Bar