Five years ago, my sister thought it would be a good idea to buy a puppy for our aging parents. She decided on a personable male Cockapoo and also decided — without consulting me — to name him Mozart. Her plan was that if he didn’t work out with the folks, he could be my store dog at Middle C Music.
I am not naturally a dog person. I had never owned a dog and quite frankly had no interest in owning one, much less having a “store dog.” Still, Mozart turned out to be an excellent companion for my parents, and when my father passed away, followed less than a year later by my mother, Mozart came to live with me.
I know there have been many books written about how dogs have changed and enriched their owners’ lives, but you don’t hear as much about the effects of having a dog in your business. All of us small independent business owners know that the only way we can survive, in this economy and with competition from the internet, is to offer that tangible atmosphere where customers feel safe, cared for and nurtured. I had worked for the past ten years to create that kind of store, and I thought I had done a pretty good job.
Enter Mozart. Who knew that a dog could add so much to a business? Especially a hard worker like this dog. When customers see Mozart behind the counter, I tell him, “Go and do your job, guy,” and he picks up his bone and goes out to greet them. It gets a laugh or at least a big smile every time.
And then there are the kids. Now they all come into the store and ask, “Is Mozart here today?” Parents tell me that their children wait all week to come to their lessons to see Mozart. He is wonderful with each one of them and they love to play with him.
He also sits with parents while they wait for their children’s lessons, and plays with the children waiting with their parents. The parents pet him and it relaxes them after their own tough day. I learned how much they cared about him soon after Mozart started working at Middle C. One of the parents came up to me and said, “Did you know that Mozart has a small lump on his hindquarters. That could be very dangerous”. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding? Where are you petting him that you found this very small lump?” A couple of days later another parent said the same thing. (I did have the vet
check it: no problem.)
It was then that I realized that Mozart was doing his job of bringing comfort, and the parents were responding by wanting to bring comfort to him. It’s two-way unconditional love that also helps my bottom line.
Predictably, there’s the occasional child or adult who is afraid of or allergic to dogs, maybe 1 or 2 percent of my customers. I just keep Mozart behind the counter when they’re around.
Not only has Mozart had a positive effect on my employees and teachers, he’s even contributing on a purely business level. For his birthday, I had a party and weekend sale that I advertised heavily. Danny Smolinski, my Alfred sales rep, sent sheet music, “A puppy named Mozart.” Mozart signed each copy and I gave them out to partygoers.
The kids gave him birthday cards and I had cake and balloons for everyone. It was an excellent advertising campaign that produced many new customers and lots of sales.