First island dog shop readies opening in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH – If Eric Lahaine and John Strausberg are successful, the same contagion will affect dogs of the barrier island as it has the cooks.

After all, the men are those who already cook for the family canines – though that is not the precise target audience for Soiree: Kitchen to Table, the cookware and tableware shop that opened in September on Miracle Mile.

The men cook – or rather, Eric’s grandmother cooks – for cocker spaniel Trevor, a dapper looking old chap and a cancer survivor, whose autoimmune disorder requires a preservative-free diet.

Trevor is the inspiration for The Dashing Dog, the island’s first dog shop, opening next month on Beachland Boulevard, just south of Ocean Drive.

“When we moved here, we couldn’t find any small batch organic dog food. We had to drive to Fort Pierce or Sebastian,” says Strausberg.

It hasn’t taken long to find a niche here.

The decision to open a dog shop hit like a bolt of lightning – sitting in the parking lot of the Miracle Mile Publix, waiting out a driving rainstorm.

“We were bickering over whether to buy dog food or go to lunch first,” says Lahaine. “We ended up sitting there for four hours, and came up with the entire plan for a dog store.”

Both have degrees in marketing, and extensive experience in retailing.

Strausberg, also a gemologist, had jewelry businesses in Connecticut, as well as a decorating firm called Pomp and Circumstance.

When he met Lahaise 12 years ago, the two started a web-based operation that included fine china and crystal.

In Vero Beach, that expertise in tabletop merchandising merged with a love of cooking, and Soiree Kitchen to Table was born, opening last fall.

Immediately, the shop’s best seller was a dog of a line of cookware.

Called Woll, the non-stick, heavy-duty, high-tech pots and pans from Germany look humble next to Soiree’s other cookware lines.

Thick bottomed and tough as nails, the cookware features ungainly handles that stick out like mouse ears, and utilitarian vented lids that allow steam to escape with a twist of the top.

It wasn’t until the two tried out a sample sauté pan left by a distributor’s rep that infatuation came.

“We started telling customers that they could take one home and if they didn’t like it they could bring it back,” Lahaise says.

“Not one of them did. People just kept coming back for more. We’ve probably sold 1,000.”

They say the company tells them they are now the biggest retailer of Woll in the country.

Along with good salesmanship, island word-of-mouth is what has made the pans go viral.

“It’s a hero-making pan,” Strausberg says. “It just makes everything perfectly.”

In a few months, Strausberg and Lahaine will no doubt be heroes to island canines, when delivery service from The Dashing Dog begins.

“It’s not so much a foo-foo boutique as a store for sporting dogs,” he says. “They’ll be dog life preservers, and tougher toys for dogs like labs, who really chew.”

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