Who is Mr. Black Dog?
I am an L.A. native and grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the 50's. When I was in school, almost everybody was from somewhere outside California. My grandparents lived on Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica near the long gone Pacific Ocean Park amusement pier. The beach was my second home.
My parents owned an Orange Julius franchise in Burbank, CA and I worked there while in high school and college. My parents worked side by side for many years and the "stand" was very successful. Hospitality and food are in my DNA. After 4 years at CSUN, I defaulted back to food and beverage and worked for a couple of restaurant chains in management, supervision, and training. I was there when the red leather steakhouse, salad bar concept, fern bars, and disco craze were hot hot hot!
Who is Mrs. Black Dog?
My actual career is as a psychotherapist with a specialty in Imago couples therapy. As an aside, Brad will tell you it's great being married to a couple's therapist! But it has also been so much fun being Mrs. Black Dog all these years. We are so fortunate to have the village of our wonderful staff, friends, and family, and are so grateful for all of you, dear customers. Thank you for your support and kindness through the years!
How did Black Dog Coffee begin?
At age 53, I got laid off (along with many of my colleagues) from a senior operational position with a struggling restaurant chain. They had expanded too quickly, and had signed a few too many leases in locations that were marginal. Over the years I had interviewed enough middle aged job applicants to appreciate that it was time to become self-employed. I was short on cash and in a big hurry so negotiating a lease and building out a cafe was out of the question.
What was most daunting was that I was going to need to find a seriously under performing existing cafe whose owner was highly motivated to get out of his lease and wasn't asking too much. I got very lucky and found just what I wanted 8 blocks from home.
I had to borrow money from several friends and relatives since I had never financially planned for this day. I changed the name, the menu, the recipes and the look of the cafe. My wife did a great job of "designing on a dime." Speaking of my wife, I could not have succeeded without her support, ideas, and willingness to take on some of the tasks of getting the cafe open. They say successful people are not afraid to ask for help; she has been a huge help.
The beginning of Black Dog according to Mrs. Black Dog.
When Brad was in his 50’s and got laid off, it was sort of a now or never if he was going to open his own place. He started looking for a restaurant for sale and found one nearby. I said “Hey, that's my building!" I had a psychotherapy practice there for many years, and was just in the process of moving out. So our joke now is that one of us apparently has to be in that building at all times. In the beginning, I think he felt like I was telling him what to do all the time, which I probably was, but we figured out our rhythm and it has been great ever since!
One of the things I love about Brad is how much he cares about our employees. They have become like family, some of them have been with us since the beginning. They take such good care of us, and our customers love them. Our wonderful friends have also been with us since the beginning of Black Dog, and several of my women friends are fabulous, gourmet cooks. They help us with recipes, tastings etc, and many of our most popular menu items come from them! I love helping Brad with the menu, as it's important for me to keep creating vegetarian and vegan options, which is how I like to eat!
Finding our name.
When we first took ownership of the restaurant, what to name it became a very funny process. It got to the point that friends were just leaving names on the answering machine (that's how long ago it was) without even a “hello." We had a contest, and the two names that won were "Jews for Java” and “He-brew.” However, when we were driving one day, Brad was talking about the black lab he had years earlier, Poocho, and his eyes filled with tears talking about him. So, Black Dog it was!
We both are incredibly passionate about animals, and our wish to end homelessness for all animals. It helps our hearts to know Black Dog is a part of the solution by donating part of our Friday profits to Best Friends Animal Society. Our current critter household is Violet Gold (we call her Violetta, she”s Italian), Crazy Louie (don’t ask), and Scarlett...all kitties:)
Seventeen years later I am eternally grateful for the layoff and for the opportunity to launch what now has become a very successful café. My wife of 30 years, Evie, is the love of my life, my soulmate, my adventure companion, and my best friend. I have an adult son and daughter by a previous marriage and 3 awesome grandchildren. I have eight terrific full time employees - many of whom have been with me for many, many years. We have the best customers in Los Angeles, and couldn’t be more thrilled to be one of the longer standing Miracle Mile businesses here. Life is good!