by Nicole Rivard
Photography by Jeenah Moon
As a mix of snow and rain blanketed New York City on Feb. 7, patrons inside the new Boris & Horton café in the East Village sipped on coffee to keep warm while discussing the proper footwear for the inclement weather.
“His feet used to freeze. These things help so much,” said Trey Wagoner, pointing to the four brown rubber boots his beloved family member was wearing.
Wagoner was talking about his Irish Setter rescue dog, Colin, who was standing right next to him. That’s because Boris & Horton is New York’s first Department of Health approved dog-friendly café, where customers are welcome to bring their pooches inside when the weather outside is frightful in the winter, stifling hot in the summer or any other time they want.
Jonathan Segal, a New York University student who was there with his rescue Clinton, a terrier who was also prepared for the weather with four red rubber boots, told Wagoner that the footwear also provided his pup with much needed protection from the salt and other chemicals on NYC streets, which can be brought indoors or dogs can ingest by licking.
“This is a big day for Clinton, he peed outside for the first time,” Segal added with a laugh, explaining that he rescued Clinton just a week earlier. “It was kind of an impulsive decision to get a dog. I called my mom in Florida, and she didn’t think it was a good idea, but then she said ‘you do you.’ And I did.”
He is so thrilled with his new furry friend, he is thinking about rescuing a brother or sister for Clinton. Perhaps Segal will find one at one of the adoption events that Boris & Horton will host. Because in addition to serving great coffee, beer, wine and vegetarian and vegan snacks, Boris & Horton, which opened on Feb. 2, will partner with rescue groups and also host adoption events and fundraisers.
The hope is that many dogs find their forever homes because people will get to see the dogs interacting with each other and humans in a cozy, comfortable atmosphere.
DOGGONE GOOD IDEA
This amazing place is the brainchild of father /daughter duo Coppy Holzman and Logan Mikhly, who named the café after his rescue dog Boris and her rescue dog Horton. Holzman founded Charitybuzz, a leading online charity auction site that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in partnership with top celebrities and nonprofits all over the globe.
Prior to working at Charitybuzz, which Holzman sold in 2017, Mikhly lived in New Orleans and managed operations for Used Dogs, a no-kill dog rescue. During her time at Used Dogs, she doubled the yearly adoption rates and assisted with community surrender intervention programs.
She currently spends as much time as possible volunteering with Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue and hanging out in McCarren Park in Brooklyn with Horton. The “Aha!” moment to open a dog café came during their visit to a coffee shop in the West Village together.
“We both have a love of coffee and dogs,” Mikhly said. “When we would walk our dogs in the city we would go to places and one person had to wait outside with the dogs while the other person went in the coffee shop, or we’d see people tie their dogs outside. We hated that and thought there might be a better way, especially since we saw a bunch of cat cafés opening in New York.”
The cat cafés that have popped up across the U.S. operate differently than Boris & Horton in that they provide a relaxed environment where people can meet and adopt felines on site—but patrons don’t actually bring their own pets there.
But Boris & Horton and cat cafés are similar in the way that the animals are never in an area where food is prepared, which is required by the New York City Health Department. Boris and Horton is divided into three separate areas: a sidewalk takeout window where patrons with dogs can order vegetarian and vegan bites and beverages; a regular café area separated by Plexiglas where dogs aren’t allowed and another indoor seating area, a.k.a a doggie den, where dogs can go and patrons are allowed to bring the food they ordered from the window or in the café.
Some packaged and homemade dog treats are available for purchase in the doggie den. The doggie den—which was bustling during my visit with people introducing their canine kids to each other and typing away on laptops—has a retail area with other merchandise for sale, including leashes, dog clothing, and even T-shirts and headwear for humans featuring Boris & Horton.
There’s even a photo booth where patrons can make a GIF with their pets and then share it on social media.
“This is such a nice place to work and play on a new level,” said Wagoner, who admits he likes to take Colin everywhere and is thrilled there’s an indoor dog-friendly café right in his neighborhood.
Mikhly said she and her dad would love to see a Boris & Horton in every neighborhood in New York. Friends of Animals would too. We lobbied for the Dining with Dogs bill, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in 2016. It allows people to bring their pups to dine with them in the outdoor dining areas of willing restaurants in New York.
To make Boris & Hilton a reality and have dogs inside, Mikhly and her dad worked closely with the New York Health Department. She advises people who might want to bring a café like theirs to their city to start by reaching out to their local health department, which can provide necessary consultation and answers to questions.
“The hardest part for us was finding a location that would allow us to meet the New York City Health Department guidelines. It took months to find a space,” she said. But it was obviously worth the wait. Mikhly’s face lights up when she talks about Boris & Horton’s soft opening adoption event in January.
“A dog got adopted. Rescue work is a cause that’s super important to me and I thought Boris & Horton could be a really good place to do rescue events and to promote the cause. I think we’re off to a really good start,” she said.
Photography by Jeenah Moon