Dave Hensley and Leib Dodell had a simple mission. Create a place where they could hang out with their dogs. Not the muddy dog park littered with grimy tennis balls and no place to sit. They were looking for a place where they could have a soda or beer, eat a meal, and relax in a comfy chair while the dogs ran around together. A place where they could meet up with their pet loving friends and relax. A place where the other patrons were excited to see them and their furry pals, instead of glaring at them because they brought animals into the room.
Hang with Friends or Doggos?
Turns out that cool places to hang out with their dogs simply did not exist when Dave and Leib adopted their puppies on the same day in 2009. They excitedly shared pics of their new furry pups, Ellie and Bear, and began figuring out where they could go to hang out that would allow pets. Leib shared that he took his Shepherd, Bear, with him to cafes and bars only to get kicked out of every place he went. Dave added that once they had dogs, they wanted to spend time with them, not leave them at home alone all day. The two friends were suddenly faced with a very real dilemma… hang with their friends or hang with their dogs.
Wouldn’t It Be Great If…?
Discouraged and frustrated, Leib and Dave, did that thing that drives entrepreneurs to innovate… they asked themselves “wouldn’t it be great if there were a place to hang out with your dogs that was also a cool place to hang out with your friends?”
And Bar K was born.
For those of you who have not heard of Bar K, it is located in the River Market area of Kansas City, Missouri. In 18 months, Dave and Leib have grown their first facility from a concept in a packed warehouse to a thriving destination for dog/human recreation, a term that Leib coined. Bar K has become so popular that they are opening up two new locations in 2020 – one in St. Louis, Missouri and the other in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The secret to their success? Hard work… lots of hard work. And a deep understanding of their pet loving customers. Leib commented that “people crave these kinds of spaces”, specifically spaces where they can relax with their dogs. Bar K boasts over 2,000 members (the furry kind) and have welcomed over 290,000 people visits in 18 months.
Both Dave and Leib firmly believed that dogs and people can co-exist in a multi-use environment. And they have proved this to be true by thoughtfully designing people only space, people/dog spaces and dog friendly spaces. They made last minute changes like ensuring incoming and outgoing gates were separate for smooth animal movement and moving an outside bar 5 steps to include it in a dog friendly area. These changes might seem small, but they made all the difference in how smoothly and safely animals and humans move around Bar K.
Dave says that they really looked at Bar K from their own perspective, asking themselves where THEY would want to hang out with their dogs. They shared stories of an older couple who come and hang out at Bar K on weekday afternoons, and the chemo patient who said that her visit to Bar K was the best day of the year, and of the many young pet owners who flock to Bar K on the weekends. Dave even sported a t-shirt that says “Bar K is my yappy place”, which we translate as dog speak for “happy place” and we wholeheartedly agree!
Thank you, Leib and Dave, for creating a truly exceptional place to hang out with your dog.