Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All The Way To The Bank....

"It's more than just a bone or collar, . .The master really cares."

I have no idea what that quote from the owner of the South End's newest "high-end" doggie boutique and spa means, but I am certain that such a phrase had a very different connotation in the South End of the 80's and 90's.

Espeso, described in the Boston Globe as a full-service destination for retail therapy (plus a grooming spa) for dogs, is located on Washington Street in the South End (where else?) across from the Peter's Park/Joe Wex dog recreation center. Espeso offers Ralph Lauren-inspired dog pillows ("chocolate bones" is a personal favorite of the Globe writer)(insert lame comment about mid-90's South End sexual preferences here). Also available are Swarovski crystal-studded collars (presumably for evening), all-natural dog treats (wheat and corn-free for those pooches with digestive difficulties). Finally, there's a spa area, offering such necessities as "calming aromatherapy spritzers." Which I needed for myself at about this point in the article.
As readers of this blog might already be aware, I am a huge proponent of supporting local businesses. Moreover, I know people who know two out of the three owners of Espeso and I have heard the nicest things about them. As they are genuinely nice people who have taken a risk in starting a local business, I want them to do well and I wish them the greatest success in their venture. Its just the nature of the products and the services they offer that I can't seem to wrap my head around.

Perhaps its because I am not a dog-lover. In fact, I'm not even a dog-liker. I would never have come out as "anti-dog" until I read another Globe article this week, entitled "I hate your dog," by the always dapper Wesley Morris. In his controversial article, Morris berates the current vogue dog "yuppification" whereby dogs are treated better than children, with "doggie spa days, mani-pedi's, pashminas, feathered french daybeds, tiaras and gourmet ice cream." Doggie massage and doggie yoga are also becoming popular amongst the yuppie crowd.
I guess when you have that much disposable income, you feel the need to dispose of it any way you can. And as long as there's a market for it, you might as well take advantage of the situation and profit from the penchant for over-indulgence displayed by some South End yuppies. In fact, I wish I had the foresight to have opened the first South End dog bakery or dog boutique/dog spa. Of course that would force me to mingle with a crowd that I have pretty much managed to avoid for the last decade and a half - the South End Dog Owner. That breed is not only known for its tendency to purchase ridiculous (and laughably-priced) dog services and accoutrements, but also by its ability to break into other people's important sidewalk conversations to make insipid comments and ask annoying questions about dog breeds/behavior/bathroom habits.
I cannot tell you how many important conversations I've had with normal dog owners on Tremont Street that have been interrupted by freakshow dog owners just at the point in the conversation where I am about to find out who slept with whom, how much someone paid for her new condo, what kind of granite they chose for their kitchen, what shade of taupe Dennis Duffy is using in their living room, or which realtor jumped ship and now works for (or no longer works for) the Hammond-Gibson-Keller-Sotheby's-Domain-Domain-Domain empire.
By way of example:

Normal Dog Owner: Anyways, she walks into her kitchen and there's the realtor doing it on her brand-new granite countertops with a client after the open house!

Me: Really? Who was the realtor? What office are they in? What kind of granite? Was it Smokey Taupe, Plymouth Rock or Gargoyle?

Normal Dog Owner: You're not going to believe this, but it was...

Freakshow Dog Owner: Oh my god!! That dog is SO cute!! What is it? My friend had a labradoodle/pit bull/greyhound/terrier mix and it looked just like this! What's his name? Ohhhh, cute dog. Can I pet it? That's a good boy. What does he like to eat? My dog gets diarrhea when he eats celery. Where'd you get his collar? I know I know you from the dog park. I'm Snowball's mommy....
Me: Step off, freak!! We're talkin' here!!
By the time the freakshow dogowner leaves, we have both forgotten what we were saying, and the conversation resumes like this:
Normal Dog Owner: Ok, what were we saying?*
Me: I have no idea. I like your shoes.
In any event, I'm a bit put off not only by this entitled behavior, but also by the whole dog bakery-spa-treatment thing. I find it hard to believe that South Enders can spend money on Swarovski crystal dog chews or whatever and that over $300,000 was donated for a dog park (ok, a dog recreational space) in the South End when other South Enders are having trouble putting food on their tables, buying clothes for their kids, or putting gas in their cars. Believe it or not, there are some South Enders for whom these issues take precedence over dog massages, yoga and imported pheasant dog treats. In fact, many of these people cannot even afford people massages, let alone doggie ones. And we wonder as the entries in the Police Beat section of the South End News grow longer and the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows wider.
* In case you were wondering, the answers are: Someone who used to be at Gibson, highly polished midnight black (not good for fingerprints, incidentally), and Gargoyle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love dogs and hope to have one someday. But I don't have one because I'm never home and don't want to spend $$$$ on doggie day care (what would be the point of that?) Although, that doggie day care bus makes me smile every time I see it. When I tell my suburban hometown friends about it, they can't believe it! We used to just let our dog (beagle mix and believe me well loved and cared for but never went to a dog spa, had a treat from a dog bakery or slept on a $200 dog bed in his whole dog life) out the back door into our unfenced yard! Kids too could just go out and play. Those days are over Johnny!

As far as what people spend money on, I believe we have all turned into Zsa Zsa Gabor / Marie Antoinette. There is no more average/normal lifestyle or consumer options anymore. Why do we all have to have marble floors, $4 coffee, French manicures, pug pedicures, spotlit heirloom tomatoes, surround sound home theaters? Of course I like nice things too, but I guess I have different taste.....

great blog,

July 15, 2008 at 10:48:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Info about hot yoga said...

Thanks, interesting article.

July 16, 2008 at 12:22:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous John said...

You, mister, are hysterical.

But your comparative economics rant at the end, as noble and heartfelt and great as it sounds, is not as sharp.

Our shared hood's excesses are but one symptom of a much larger culture's greed and vanity, and somehow I think there is some kind of drip-down benefit to the larger community, but I am no economist. But aren't you a Log Cabinenist, as in voting for Dubya, or did I misread one of your loopy masterpieces?

Keep it shaking, sir.

July 22, 2008 at 12:40:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is too bad none of the area business groups bring in (or preserve) diverse businesses. I'm all for upscale restaurants and boutiques, but how about mixing it up a bit? Pretty much every new biz along Washington St. is geared toward people with a lot of disposable income. Sure, they helped Morse and Don Ricardo's but nothing in the past 4 or 5 years.

July 22, 2008 at 4:19:00 PM PDT  
Blogger BR said...

I love dogs and my family was a little overindulgent of our dog ... but, like, we let it up on the couch and gave it people food from our plates, not spent $400 on a pet-icure (yuk yuk) or something.

I am always sort of horrified by the number of large dog breeds I see being walked in the South End. I mean, there are a lot of awfully small apartments in the SE. How do you keep a big lab or golden cooped up in a tiny little apartment all day? That just seems cruel.

July 24, 2008 at 8:52:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you keep a big lab or golden cooped up in a tiny little apartment all day? That just seems cruel.

Because they're accessories, not living creatures.

July 24, 2008 at 7:15:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

go see this show on Saturday, one of the comics is a South Ender and loves talking about the dog owners there. So funny...

Colorstruck: Women of Color in Comedy
Saturday Aug 2nd 8pm & 10pm
Midway Cafe, JP

July 28, 2008 at 11:43:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're accessories- just like those babies everyone is toting around.

July 29, 2008 at 9:21:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

I finally have some common ground with southender. I own a large dog in a small-ish condo. On our walks, there is always one usually 2 or 3 freakofnaturedoglover! who HAS to squeal and pant over my dog. Meanwhile it freaks the shit out of my dog and tries to hide behind us. She is increasingly getting scared of normal people. The freakofnaturedoglover! now looks askance at us as if we raised a bad dog. It drives me batty.

Worse yet is Espeso. Far be it from me to tell people how to blow disposible income, but, seriously, it is borderline disgusting. At least Polka Dog makes treats at the same price or less than PetCo. Whatever happened to Milk Bones?

I do want to clarify one thing that you continually ignore. The dog park was paid for by the people who use it. The alternative is for city to pick up the tab. Granted, the city probably wouldn't have sprung for a $300K park, but a dirt patch with a fence is at least $50k under union labor and city rates. I know, I know, the thrust is how we engage each other as neighbors - not cash.

August 8, 2008 at 11:09:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dog park was paid for by the people who use it.

The property was city property and has some value. Also, the Animal Rescue League contributed money for construction (from where do they receive their funding?). I believe that Project Place handles the maintenance. So it's not an entirely funded by the people who use the park. I wasn't too excited about this project early on, but I think it's a good thing for the neighborhood. However, we should be clear about all of the funding sources.

August 10, 2008 at 2:52:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

This is far afield from the OP, but to clarify once and for all:

- The property IS city property now. The construction and maintenance of the park is funded solely by private donation. The city can repurpose the dog park at will. The previous dog park was larger than the current one.*

- ARL is a registered non-profit funded by private donations.

- Project Place provides transitionary employees a living wage and on the job training while they work themselves out of homelessness and poverty. Project Place's "Clean Corners . . . Bright Hopes" program contracts with businesses and neighborhood organizations for cleaning services. So, Friends of Peter's Park actually are contributing back to the community.

- Lastly,neighborhood civic association(s) had the opportunity to provide substantial input into the dog park development. In fact, had the neighborhood civic association(s) not signed a memorandum of non-opposition, the project would not have gone through.

If you join or participate in neighborhood civic associations, you can make a difference. (Dog owners clearly did. ;-) ) There is Eight Streets, Old Dover,Berkeley Street Garden; PSI always needs dinner service; ARL needs volunteers; and there is something for everyone at Project Place. These are the ones I know about . . .

Anyone else care to add to it?

* (Although, was it "legal"?)

August 12, 2008 at 10:36:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"The property IS city property now. The construction and maintenance of the park is funded solely by private donation. The city can repurpose the dog park at will. The previous dog park was larger than the current one.*

The city did not own the property prior to it's recent renovation? Who owned it when it was a previous dog park? Who paid for the purchase of the property?

August 13, 2008 at 9:37:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

Post #10:
"The property was city property and has some value."

Post #11:
"The property IS city property now."

Post #12:
"The city did not own the property prior to it's recent renovation? Who owned it when it was a previous dog park? Who paid for the purchase of the property?"

The park was city property prior to the rehab; it is city property now; It will likely always be city property. Don't know who owned it before the city. Maybe someone named Peter?

August 14, 2008 at 12:43:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The park was city property prior to the rehab; it is city property now; It will likely always be city property. Don't know who owned it before the city. Maybe someone named Peter?

I think the poster who was questioning ownership of the property was trying make a point that the public DID contribute to Peters park. You were misleading in your post when you said "the property IS city property now", which makes it sound like it was recently purchased (by the fundraisers?), donated, or whatever. Yes, people raised money for the renovation, but in the end it was still a public/private partnership that created the park.

August 17, 2008 at 9:00:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

Yes, I understood the previous poster. One person said it "was city property and has some value". My point is that the city did not recently donate land to a dog park nor did a subset of South Enders expropriate public land. It was a city owned dog park before. It is a city owned dog park now (a smaller one at that). There is no transfer of value*; no new owners.

Further, development of the dog park is a public / public partnership that incorporates neighbors & neighborhood associations, the Parks Department, and City Hall. Development & maintenance is financed in its entirety by a not-for-profit which was founded and funded by neighbors, local businesses, foundations, and not-for-profit organizations. The process for creating the park was very public and subject to strict policies and procedures. Also, the process is designed so that one objection - or simply someone dragging their feet - can effectively shut it down.

However, if the South End decides it wants green space instead of pea stone, they can get it changed.

*You can make the case that the nonprofit caretakers of dog park transferred value back to the city by eliminating the development and maintenance costs for that parcel and by employing Project Place for said maintenance. I would also argue that having such a unique feature in an urban neighborhood increases the property values.

August 18, 2008 at 12:39:00 PM PDT  
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