Friends who met walking dogs open special gift store for pets
Two women who set up an online shop for animal lovers, selling everything from paw balms, shampoo bars and bone china bowls, tell Linda Stewart how their exciting enterprise came about
It's Northern Ireland's latest online emporium for pet lovers with a taste for the good things in life - and it was born out of a chance encounter in Belmont Park. Murphy & Bailey is named after 10-year-old Lhasa Apso Murphy (dubbed 'the handsome one') and three-and-a-half-year-old Sprussell Bailey ('the bonkers one') whose owners Karen Breene and Judith Scott met while walking them in the east Belfast park.
Karen describes themselves as 'corporate ladies' who dreamed of setting up their own store for animal lovers.
"Judith was a banker and I was working in telecoms and we met about three years ago when we were walking our dogs in Belmont Park. Judith lives on one side of the park and I live on the other side," she says.
"We're essentially neighbours who became friends through our dogs Murphy and Bailey, hence the name of the company. Belmont Park is a very popular park for dog walkers and it's one of those things where we were just meeting in the park every day."
Murphy & Bailey was born after Karen had been telling Judith about a wonderful store she had seen on holiday featuring treats for pet lovers as well as their animals, and how she longed to set something similar up.
"It would be a one-stop shop where cat lovers and dog owners can get gifts branded with dogs and cats, like little paw print earrings or a lovely scarf with German shepherds on it," she says.
"We do dog walker revival kits with foam baths.
"We also do a large range of stationery with everything from Christmas cards to condolence cards if your pet has passed away."
The pair only launched their website in July and have just launched their Facebook and Instagram pages, but say their dogs are already old hands at social media and have a big following.
"Murphy already has 2,500 followers and I only have about 400 followers myself," Karen laughs.
All the products on the site are made by UK-based companies and many of the products are made by home-grown companies from Northern Ireland, including dog treats from Barkin Bistro and dog toys from Rag Dogs, made from recycled material by pupils at Bloomfield Collegiate.
There are stylish leads and collars from London-based HIro + Wolf and the website also offers kits for making your own dog treats.
There are soothing paw balms, insect repellent shampoo bars for mucky dogs and bone china dog bowls, as well as a few luxury items for cats as well.
"This is how we started, working with these companies, trying to promote them and building a presence online," Karen explains.
"We've also started working on our own range of wax candles and melts and producing our own textile that will be Belfast-themed. Customers will soon be able to purchase their own bandanas and collars with Belfast prints on them."
Inspired by the likes of renowned Manhattan dog-friendly cafe Boris & Horton, the duo are also putting together some exciting long-term plans for the business.
"Our long-term plan is to have a physical store - that is our aspiration, to have a physical presence in Belfast," Karen says.
"There will be a real element of fun to it. It will be something really different, something dog-friendly and we'd like to do some community stuff around it."
Meanwhile, Murphy & Bailey can be seen at lots of upcoming pet events, such as Pet Expo NI, although Bailey himself will not be making a personal appearance.
"Bailey is three-and-a-half years old and is a mixture of Jack Russell and Springer, so he can be pretty hyper - he doesn't do well in crowds," Karen laughs.
"Murphy is going to be 11 on his next birthday. He loves to sit on a travel bed at the front of the stall greeting everybody - he's a bit of a character."
For more information, visit Murphy & Bailey at murphyandbailey.co.uk or visit the Murphy & Bailey stall at the Belfast Telegraph Pet Expo sponsored by We Are Vertigo. Get your tickets now here or pay at the door on the day!
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