Our local shops draw customers in with their unique wares, attentive staffs and welcoming atmospheres. Beachside at the Village Shops and along Ocean Drive, a gracious shopping experience recollects the elegant salons of yesteryear. One unexpected perk you won’t find at an outlet mall has four legs and a tail, and while he won’t fetch you another size in that shirt you like, he is happy to greet you like a long lost friend.
Shop dogs seem to love going to work as much as their owners do. At Coastal Comforts in the Village Shops, Chris Pawela and Dan Herrig have brought their dogs along since day one of the store’s opening in 2014. “Dan and I came from Boca for a weekend and stayed at the Disney resort,” says Pawela. “We explored the Village Shops and just thought the place was magical.” The pair recently expanded their store and took little time filling it with fine gifts and home furnishings.
Herrig and Pawela have two rescue dogs that love their jobs as official greeters: a Pekingese named Lola and a Chihuahua mix named Rocco. “We are on our fifth rescue dog here,” says Pawela. When the store first opened, Lola was the peppy young dog, and Josh, also a Pekingese, was the dignified elder statesman. Josh passed away and the pair began to think about another dog. They took their time but knew there was room in their hearts for another rescue.
“We saw Rocco at the Fort Pierce Humane Society, where he had just come in looking very scared,” Pawela says. “Once we had Rocco meet Lola and all went well, we filled out the forms and he was ours.” Now Lola is the grand dame, while young Rocco is always on the go. “He has two speeds: fast and sleeping.”
On the way to work, Pawela says the dogs vocalize like a singing duo as they pull into the parking lot. I make my visit early before the doors open to get some one-on-one time with both dogs. Rocco announces my arrival in full voice, his tail wagging so fast he creates a breeze. Lola saunters up to me holding a plush toy as an offering.
“Rocco gets very excited about the first person to arrive, but then he calms down once more people start to come in,” Pawela explains. When the day is over and the doors are locked, the dogs scamper around the store while Pawela gets ready to leave. Coming or going, Rocco and Lola love their routine, and it shows.