You’ve Seen a Bodega Cat. How About a Barber Shop Rooster?
NEW YORK TIMES
Photographs and Text by Alexandra Genova
• Sept. 3, 2022
New York City’s beloved bodega cats are internet famous. But other animals — birds, snakes and even pigs — are also at home in neighborhood shops.
Yes, New York’s beloved bodega cats are internet famous. An Instagram account dedicated to chronicling the friendly felines who live at corner delis, serving as both exterminators and entertainers, has more than 400,000 followers. But these aren’t the only animals at home in neighborhood small businesses. There’s the pigeon turned unofficial laundromat mascot. The rescue parrots who keep everyone company in a liquor store. And the rooster who helps a barber stave off homesickness.
In a challenging time for small businesses, any way to stay one foot — or four — ahead of the competition is key. And shop pets help on that front. They can transform a store into a community fixture. They befriend customers, and become a reason for them to stop by. For owners, pets bring family into the workplace, helping fend off loneliness during lulls in the day. Animals can also lead to bonus attention, essentially free advertising.
“The customer gets an unforgettable experience, and the interaction can inspire customers to share their experience on social channels,” said Lisa Apolinski, a digital strategy expert who works with small businesses.
While the in-store animals have many fans and offer a marketing boost, not everyone is delighted by a bird in Aisle 3. Gale Mayron, who owns Jao Social Club, a Brooklyn gift shop that is also the residence of Gertie the dove, has seen the downside: “One of my employees is afraid of feathers,” she said.
Jao Social Club
Gale Mayron, owner
The white dove outside a gift shop in Brooklyn needed a rescue. Now she is named Gertie, and she lives at the store.
“I love talking to her,” said Gale Mayron, who owns the shop, Jao Social Club. “We give her bird baths. We make sure she’s well fed. She’s got freedom — she’s not locked in a cage.”
She added, “She seems happy, and I just have fallen in love with her.”
After some research, Ms. Mayron learned that Gertie is a type of dove bred to be released at weddings or funerals. “They’re not wild birds,” she said. “She will be killed outside.”