Man behind London's first dog cafe reveals his plan for the venue set to open in Shoreditch
PUBLISHED: 18:53 18 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:49 19 February 2014
Dog olympics, fashion shows for pooches and four-legged fancy dress are among the quirky ideas for London's first canine cafe set to open in the next few months.
Kristjan Byfield and his wife Hayley are hunting for a Shoreditch home for their shop-cum-cafe Happiness of Hounds, which will offer doggie goods including clothing, herbal tea, cup cakes and cookies, as well serving up a separate menu for their human companions.
After toying with the idea for the past five years, Kristjan – the founder of successful estate agent Base Property in Garden Walk, Shoreditch – has finally decided put his new business plan into action and has been “overwhelmed” by the response of the public to the idea.
The 34-year-old, who has three dogs of his own, said: “Basically it’s an idea I’ve had in various shapes and forms that I’ve been toying with for the past five years. I had originally planned to bring out a dog food brand and I really liked the idea of launching it in a cafe and shop.
“I spent about 18 months to two years researching dog food and in the end I made the decision to not go for it – there were going to be huge overheads and there’s already so many dog food brands out there.
“But through talking to people, when I mentioned the cafe and retail space for dogs and dog lovers everyone responded really positively.
“So many people leave behind their dogs with the parents when they move to London as when they first arrive they have to live in tiny flats so having dogs of their own just isn’t an option. Or worse, you move to London and find you can’t keep your dog so you have to give it away.
“So I really like the idea that if you are a dog lover you can hang out with a few dogs, give them a bit of affection whilst your having a coffee and a muffin and then trundle off with a smile on your face.”
Unlike London’s first feline cafe – Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Bethnal Green Road – no animals will be permanently based at the venue but dog owners are invited to bring in their hounds.
Hayley, 35, currently works in theatre and she will be responsible for heading up the timetable of events which is already set to include dog sports days and fashion shows for man’s best friend. There will also be dog grooming on offer and educational workshops for owners.
“There’s going to be lots of different elements to the company. We want fun bits such as a corner where you can dress dogs up and take photos. I’ve seen businesses that have done this type of thing, like dog spas, but I just think they are all a bit too serious. Having dogs is fun and we’re going to embrace that,” said Kristjan, who has two sibling boxers called Daisy and Duke and a rescue Staffordshire bull terrier called Diamond.
But first he needs to find a space to set up the cafe in the Shoreditch or Hoxton area, and is considering launching it as a pop up to get it off the ground in the next two to three months.
“It will enable us to open sooner, it’s not going to be everything we want it to be but at least then it will be the start of things and take the pressure off us to rush into choosing a venue,” he added.