“There’s something about that time-period when people cared about a stray dog. So much so, they’d write letters to the [newspaper] editor,” Mr. Eddie James told me.
“‘I saw Brownie limping yesterday, what’s wrong with Brownie?'” Mr. Alvin Almodovar added, as a sample of what people wrote to the local Daytona newspaper in the 1950s about Brownie the Town Dog.
Along the Halifax Riverfront in Daytona Beach is the historic downtown. Called the Riverfront Shops of Daytona, stores, eateries and galleries line Beach Street. At the canine-chic shop called Brownie’s Dog Boutique, I learned about its namesake, Brownie the Town Dog, and met a couple looking to keep Brownie’s legacy alive while enhancing dog-friendly Daytona Beach. All the while, my dog Radcliff enjoyed romping around the dog-friendly boutique and discovered their toy box.
Proprietors Alvin Almodovar and Eddie James opened their paw-tastic boutique in July 2016 after reading about Brownie in the daily paper. Eddie was searching for office space for a subscription box service catering to senior dogs he and Alvin intended to launch. He took along the riverfront on what is now the Sweetheart Trail, saw Brownie’s grave and saw their present shop space vacant, they decided it would be the ideal place to open a dog boutique named after Brownie and share his story.
What is Brownie’s Story?
Local history recalls Brownie wandering into the Daytona Cab Company in 1940 and becoming the town dog. According to Alvin and Eddie, the sandy-brown canine was a local celebrity. Merchants took care of and fed Brownie for the 14 years he lived on Daytona Beach’s streets and tourists and locals donated to Brownie’s bank account which paid for his funeral and tombstone. Every year, the Daytona citizens voted to pay for Brownie’s dog license, which was always #1.
“The dog was on a ballot. That would not happen today,” said Eddie.
When Brownie passed away in 1954, the mayor gave the eulogy. Although it was against the law to bury anything in the park, local government officials made an exception for the beloved hound. The community adored Brownie so much and wanted to memorialize their beloved pup that it took two years of discussions to place a tombstone on his grave.
To this day, many people still remember their time with Brownie and some remember him as a magical or healing dog. Some have shared their memories of the street dog with Alvin and Eddie.
“‘When I was a little girl, if I didn’t feel well, I’d sit with Brownie,” Alvin said a customer told him.
But, the story of Brownie isn’t about a street dog.
“It’s about remembering a time that was different. People tell stories about their family and how Brownie fit in,” Alvin told me, “It was a simple time and wholesome and very significant for the town. It wasn’t a dog, it was a symbol of a time.”
“That’s a different world than we live in today where we don’t notice anything wrong with our phones walking around,” Eddie reminded me, “It’s us, us, us 24/7. We’re the star of our own reality.”
Incorporating Daytona Beach’s Favorite Dog into Brownie’s Dog Boutique
Brownie’s Dog Boutique is an upscale pet shop and promotes itself as Daytona’s #1 hippest dog boutique. Décor is shabby-chic with walls accented with colorful folk art including portraits of Brownie by artist Theresa Disney (no, not related to THAT Disney). About 75 – 80 percent of the décor is reclaimed and refurbished. The wood floor is sturdy to hold up to the heavy traffic of visiting dogs shopping with their owners. There’s also a corner which displays photos of Brownie.
The owners are conscientious about what they sell and focus on American-based companies and products that do good. For instance, they sell as plush toy alligator toy from an American-based company but the item is made in China. However, when people share a photo of their dog with the alligator and using the company’s hashtag, a toy alligator will be donated to a dog shelter. Because the cost to produce the toy alligator is low, the company can afford to do this.
They carry dog chew toys made of wool from Nepal. After the earthquake in 2015, much of the wool was contaminated and no longer considered human-grade and could not be used to make clothing for people. Rather than destroy the wool, it was cleaned and repurposed into dog chew toys and economically sustains a community in Nepal.
Since I’m a foodie, and think my dog is, too, I really appreciated the Florida-made section featured at Brownie’s Dog Boutique. They feature a variety of treats made in the Sunshine State. Eddie said they are always looking for new companies in Florida making treats and work with them as much as possible to help them expand their respective brands.
The treats include Brownie’s branded treats which are popular with tourists and locals and include Brownie Squares and Elvis’ Everyday Dog Treats which are “treats for good dogs, because Brownie was a good dog,” Eddie said.
My dog is picky and I picked up a bag of Beef Liver Bites from Daytona Beach-based The Cultured Hound. OMG. He LOVED them and now I need to order more. I also picked up a bag of Elvis’ Everyday for a friend and her dog has enjoyed them.
They also have a collection of treats colorfully decorated such as alligators and sharks. I’m not sure what were in those but Radcliff gobbled up his shark. In addition to treats, they sell clothing, leashes and collars, toys, a limited supply of dog food and whatever else will go.
I should mention, neither Mr. Almodovar or Mr. James had any experience in retail before this adventure. In fact, Mr. Almodovar is a scientist and Mr. James is a technology consultant, yet they’ve done their research, listened to others, and went with their instincts to open and run this shop.
They put much thought into what the boutique’s philosophy should be and according to Eddie, decided on reclaimed items “because Brownie was a homeless dog. Vintage because he was a dog from the 50s. We try to focus on American products because he was a true American dog story. We took the phrase ‘good dog’ and we kept thinking, ‘what does that mean?’ we want products that try and do good in some way. We always want to think our products doing good. Are we trying to do good?”
Exploring Brownie’s Dog Boutique, learning about Brownie and hearing the passion Alvin and Eddie have for that dog, boutique and Daytona Beach community, I’d say it’s bark-tastic! It’s a must-visit stop with or without your dog when visiting Daytona Beach.
Other than remembering Radcliff shredding one of the toys in the toybox, I’ll remember what Alvin said when explaining Brownie’s influence on a 1940s Daytona Beach and his influence today.
“We have to care about each other. It’s just not me, me, me, me, me. We should care about the community as a whole…and that’s what Brownie signified. He was a unifying force which was beautiful.”
And I’m confident, Brownie’s Dog Boutique will bring that beauty back.
Nuts & Bolts
Brownie’s Dog Boutique
228 S. Beach Street
Daytona Beach, Fla. 32114
Tel: (386) 492-4431
Learn more about Brownie the Town Dog and learn about fundraising efforts to create a statue for him. www.browniethetowndog.org
Planning a visit to Daytona Beach with your dog? I have a follow up post coming about my pet-friendly visit to Daytona Beach but visit the website of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
View additional photos on my Flickr channel.