Dogma Owner Stays the Course Despite Financial Stress

by Katie Pyzyk July 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm 3,236 43 Comments

Despite financial difficulties and rumors of it possibly closing in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center, Dogma Bakery (2445 N. Harrison Street) is plugging along. Owner Sheila Raebel wants customers to know she’s not giving up on the store yet.

While hesitant to admit the store may have to close after 12 years at that location, Raebel said it wouldn’t make financial sense to extend the lease, only to continue losing money. Dogma’s lease at that location expires in November of 2013, so Raebel said there’s still time to turn things around.

“It is true that we are not doing as well as I would like. Are we making money? No,” Raebel said. “As far as closing, I’m not going to close down a store just to close it down. I’m a little stubborn, I guess.”

Raebel wanted to be up front with her employees and with customers, so she recently sent a letter discussing the store’s financial trouble. She said many people came to the store after not having stopped by for a while, and said they took it for granted Dogma would always be there.

“I was honest with what we need, which is more people coming in the store,” Raebel said. “It was great that we had so much response and it helped us a great deal. It was really good that people responded the way they did.”

Although it may seem like the business would have taken a major hit when a competitor — Unleashed by Petco — moved in across the street, Raebel says the problem is largely the economic downturn. She said although there is some overlap between the two stores, they tend to serve different customers. She said Dogma staff continues to work to differentiate the store from others.

“When Unleashed came in, quite frankly, it was very scary for us. But they have their place in the community. I could not say that it is any reason for us not doing as well as I would like us to be doing,” said Raebel. “In a way it’s very much of a compliment that a business like that comes in. They recognized over the years that boutique businesses like ours is what the neighborhoods are really looking for. It’s a compliment that they changed their business model to have this new division.”

Raebel said many loyal customers were angered when the competitor moved in so close to Dogma. However, she continues to put the majority of the blame on the down economy.

“We’re not just a dog bakery, we’re a boutique that has gift items, toys and cat items. Some of those segments were hit hard, and that hit us in all those segments within the store. That’s the nature of retail,” said Raebel.  “Goods cost more, shipping costs a lot more, taxes are going up. All of those things come together and sales are going down.”

For now, Raebel is working with the landlord, whom she said is being very helpful in trying to hash out a deal. If she’s not able to find a way to keep the store at the current location, Raebel hopes to find a nearby site. That, however, would be a last ditch effort.

“There’s a lot of things in flux right now,” said Raebel. “We’re all going to try to work together and see what we can do so everyone comes out whole.”

In the meantime, Dogma will continue to operate until a decision needs to be made next year. Raebel said the staff is constantly trying to improve and give customers what they want.

“Our staff work really hard and try to be knowledgeable. I feel confident they are, and we will continue to learn,” Raebel said. “And eventually, we will be back where we need to be.”

  • CW

    “We’re not just a dog bakery.”

    Only in Arlington. I love this place.

    • JamesE

      They have lovely human flavored scones for pitbulls

      • confused

        I take it dog bakery is NOT to dog, as chicken restaurant is to chicken

        • ferallike

          Dogma Dog Bakery is a spectacular little bakery that makes dog treats & even bone shaped cakes for dogs. We’ve gotten these bone shaped cakes to celebrate our dogs birthdays as the kids think it is so much fun. They used to have Halloween parties there that were also a lot of fun.
          It’s a cute little shop with great gifts for dogs & dog owners and I would be very sorry to see it go. I didn’t know they were in financial trouble. I’m going to make it a point now to make sure I get by there more often to get our pups some cookies & see if I can help em stay on there.

    • drax

      In some countries, a dog bakery is where they make treats OUT of dogs.

  • Thomas

    A Panhandler with a retail store. News Flash, 90% of retail shop owners are struggling, it’s called LIFE. Source – Retail Vendor.

    • Frank


      • Trolls

        Thomas is doing his imitation of a “wana’ be” hard nosed business person from his cubicle ….not very successfully I might add.

        All hard nosed “business people” take timeout from their busy schedules take time out to comment on ARLNOW stories…..

        • Frank


          Personally, got to give them credit for not blaming a big box store for the struggles. Even if a dog bakery is ridiculous.

        • QuangTri1967

          Posted from your cubicle, no doubt.

        • Thomas

          I do sales son, read that I am a VENDOR, Mister Dummy. I’m not a sucker in an office. Assume much? Yeah ya do.

    • Loocy

      There are many people who prefer to take their business to locally-owned shops and are willing to go a bit out of their way to make sure those shops stay in business.

      I see nothing wrong with reminding people that they will no longer be able to stay in business if sales don’t improve. They lost almost a week’s worth of summer business during the power failure and I think it is perfectly reasonable to remind people of their ongoing business needs. Better to do that now than for those same people to show up at a shuttered store for their annual pooch birthday celebration and say “had I known they were in trouble, I would have brought them more business.”

  • Brian

    Damn this article is confusing and difficult to read.

  • Andy

    Doggone it. I have a feeling they’re barking up the wrong tree. They’re at the tail end of their lease, and they just need to paws and re-assess their situation. The economic downturn has really taken a bite out of their profits, but I think they just need a new leash on life. I hope they can attract many more snouty customers and keep a roof over their heads.

    • neutrino

      Do you mean, “a woof over their heads”?

  • neutrino

    I hope something useful takes their place.

    • QuangTri1967

      LOL. Seriously.

      • neutrino

        No, seriously, they went out of business because of Obama. All his dog biscuit regulations are squeezing out hard-working Americans.

    • Frank

      Like a yogurt store. Oh yeah, that’s already going in. Oh, a burger place. Got that box checked. Pizza? Check.

      • Justin

        A book store would be nice.

        • Dan

          “A book store would be nice”

          Sadly, that is less practical than a gourmet dog biscuit store.

          People would just browse and then go home and order from Amazon.

          Look at what is left of Reiter’s downtown….barely a shadow of its former self.

        • Replytothat

          Just so people know of a remaining independent bookstore — there is a great, little bookstore on Westmoreland in Arlington (One More Page). It has a lot of author events and book clubs, also sells chocolate and wine. There’s parking too. The space is on the small side so the book selection isn’t huge but it’s worth a visit (IMHO).

  • jackson

    Today’ story, in light of past stories about the bakery on this site, made me think of two quotes:

    “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”


    “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”

    Depends on how you view their chances for survival.

    • Neutrino

      In my hometown, we had a small old-timey neighborhood grocery store. They had three going-out-of-business sales before finally closing. Needless to say, we stopped believing them quickly.

      • Frank

        But they went out of business. What else would they have had to do for you to believe them?

        • Neutrino

          After the third sale, two years after the first sale. We stopped believing they were going out of business. Aggressive much?

  • novasteve

    Maybe they’d do better business if they made doggy cupcakes, doggy froyo, doggy wraps, doggy sushi, and rename it to the Dogma Tavern?

    • Neutrino

      Or my dog’s favorite: whatever the hell I give it.

  • James Moron

    While I applaud the marketing effort, attempting to generate business and sustain a store on public charity and sympathy is not a long-term strategy. She’s not going to close it down “just to close it down.” Um, yeah, she’s gonna close it down because the business is losing money. Most people don’t shut down successful businesses.

    I have nothing against the place, but she’d be better offer going in a different direction. The overpriced animal boutique ship sailed when people had to stop charging the purchase on a card with a picture of their house on it.

    • Allan

      I got the original email and there wasn’t anything in it that asked for sympathy or charity. They asked for help by coming to shop at their store. They have done many fundraisers, adoption events, and more over the years and I’m glad they reached out to the community for help. Who else is going to help them succeed? And, how would we ever know if they needed help if they didn’t ask?`

      Being someone who shops there, and also shops at the pet store in the same shopping center; it’s clear that they aren’t an “overpriced animal boutique”. I bought items there years ago that are still in great shape, my wife buys teacher gifts there, and we’ve bought quite a few books for our kids there too.

      In the original email, they noted lease restrictions on use. Since the other store in Shirlington has additional services, it seems like they understand what needs to be done, but there is a good chance that there are reasons they can’t do it at Lee-Harrison.

      • Al

        Face it. It was a dumb idea. (Really? You’re going to bake gourmet treats for an animal that licks its own anus?)

  • Clarendon Lover

    Thank you for highlighting this small business. We will begin supporting them.

  • Sam

    They have a very busy store in Shirlington. Every time I go in there, the store is full of dogs and people. The staff seems to know almost everyone that comes in, and they have a groomer there.

    They have been around a long time and do a lot for the shelter and for rescue groups. I hope it works out that they can keep both locations.

    Good luck to them.

    • JohnB

      And with absolutely no issues with illegal murals.

      • Sam

        That is correct.

  • Just Me

    I thought the private sector was doing great? That is what Obama said.

    My problem with shopping at Lee Harrison Shopping Center is the parking, when it got the facelift and improvements the parking got really bad so I just don’t go there anymore.

    • Dan

      Parking is almost always available if you go down to the back exit…down where the “Molly Maid” (or something like that) cars are parked.

      I can remember when the Super Fresh was there and it was really easy to park…….

      • QuangTri1967

        I can remember when the A&P was there and there was always a ton of available parking. That’s because the Safeway across the street kicked its butt. Which is really putting it in perspective.

  • JimPB

    The American dog is no longer a working dog that lives outside the home, but now is often a virtual family member that frequently sleeps in bed with its two-legged companion(s) and on which the two-legged caretakers lavish food, treats and services. Dogma reflects this elevation in the role and of and in goods and services lavished on dogs.
    Spending on pets tops $50 billion
    By Sarah D. Bunting | Pets – Mon, Mar 5, 2012 4:36 PM EST

    The American Pet Products Association reported last week that Americans spent $50 billion on their pets in 2011 — actually, $50.96 billion, an all-time high and an increase of more than 5 percent over the previous year.

    Where’d all that money go? The single biggest pet expense is food; almost half the nation’s spending on “household animals” went towards feeding the critters. Food and vet expenses together accounted for 65 percent of the total. (The $50 billion figure also includes purchases of the animals themselves, which bore a $2.13 billion price tag in 2011.)

    But the fastest-growing category of pet expenses is “services” — things like grooming, doggie daycares, spas, and pet hotels. Such services might seem like unnecessary luxuries in this economy, but pet owners didn’t agree; the sector grew nearly 8 percent over last year. APPA president Bob Vetere said he expected similar growth or better for pet services in 2012, and that we’ll probably see more money spent on pet insurance.

  • I shop there for unusual gifts. The bakery is a small part of the store, I do think it’s a bit expensive but their items are quite unusual and fun. They also sell things for people that have animals on them.
    I agree the parking is a royal mess in that shopping center. Although I do park underground, the whole set up is odd -even finding the underground parking is tricky – not to mention the oddly placed bank with the one way drive-through.
    But I do recommend folks check it out -it’s not what you think.
    Plus, why are some of you do negative about pets and owners? Gee people, chill. If cats and dogs make people happy why does that bother you so much???

  • Al Gore

    “They recognized over the years that boutique businesses like ours is what the neighborhoods are really looking for.”

    Clearly this is what they want. It must explain why you have to send letters begging people to come.

  • Sanbuttsky

    “if it weren’t for our high dual incomes from our senior executive dayjobs, my utterly impractical boutique hobby small business would’ve gone under years ago” ::dabs at tears with a kleenex::

  • It hard for small business in any countries now since the internet, which has so many bargains Small brick and mortar businesses have to adapt to survive.

    Take Care


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