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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

It's Not Just Bars and Restaurants: Other Local Businesses Also Facing Tough Times

  With a number of restaurants and bars in our area closing down due to the coronavirus, other kinds of businesses are also feeling the pressure. After nineteen years of operations, Dogs at Play, a dog daycare and boarding center, shut its doors last Friday.  WHQR reports on one business owner’s tough decision.  

There are about 26 dogs playing in the enclosure at Dogs at Play. And some of them have been coming here for ten years...and what they don't know is today is the last day to play with their friends.

Gene Gregory is the manager.  He’s hoping -- somehow -- the business might survive. 

“I’m trying to keep optimistic that somebody local, like one of our customers, hopefully, wants to maybe purchase the business.”  

Owner Whitney Doremus agrees. She hopes Dogs At Play has a future: 

“Nothing would make me happier than to find somebody who is as passionate and in love with the business as I have been. I’m sorry, [crying] so I would love that.”

Dogs At Play has had a challenging history. Getting a license wasn’t easy: 

“We were doing it differently; we were letting dogs play in a play yard all day and letting them sleep in crates at night more like what they do at home and the regulations didn’t fit.” 

After years as one of the only doggie daycares in the state, they hit a string of bad luck.  

“Like I’ve often wondered if we’re built on an old Indian burial ground or something.” 

They were closed for five months after Hurricane Matthew when a tree fell through the play yard. They survived Hurricane Florence, but then:

“I got a call that a drunk driver had run through the building. When we saw the damage, I couldn’t believe it. The entire front of the building was gone.” 

They were closed for another six months. And when the pandemic hit, their small business loan couldn’t keep them afloat:

“The PPP covers payroll and utilities. And then if you have a lease that it covers that, but in our case, we have a mortgage, so it covers the interest but not the principal. So once the payroll runs out, there’s really not a whole lot more there. So we exhausted that and there’s just not enough income anymore.”   

As more and more people stayed home, so did their dogs: 

“And if a family has a drop in income, and that means probably one of the things to go is a dog going to daycare.”

As one more business closes, Manager Gene Gregory worries that what’s happening at Dogs at Play is just an example of what the whole community is experiencing:

“I worry about all the small businesses. I support different restaurants that are struggling, so I just hope everyone makes it through. It’s going to be tough, tough times for a little while.” 

But owner Whitney Doremus urges entrepreneurs not to give up on their dreams:

“I would encourage anybody who has a passion to follow it. And if your gut tells you that it is going to be good and people want it, then do it.”