Nothing competitive about new Dog Eat Dog décor store

Chrissy McRoberts, owner of Dog Eat Dog, husband Shane Bellmore and Legend, the pup that inspired it all. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Chrissy McRoberts spends mornings in her basement workshop building primitive furniture from discarded wood.

At noon, she brushes off the sawdust and heads upstairs to open her new multi-artisan showroom at 161 Mitton St. S.

Dog Eat Dog Home Furnishings and Décor held its grand opening on May 1. McRoberts says it’s her dream come true in the neighbourhood she always wanted to locate.

For the past five years, she has built a unique line of furniture and accessories using material salvaged from work sites and what she jokingly calls “boulevard boutique shopping.”

Before opening Dog Eat Dog – named for an earlier enterprise selling homemade dog treats – she built her furniture in a backyard shed and carved out a niche constructing it for dozens of local stores and restaurants.

Last fall, she started looking for a building with a storefront and shop space. McRoberts said she jumped at the opportunity when a friend suggested 161 Mitton St., just south of Wellington.

Mitton Village has an unfair reputation for drug use and vandalism, she said.

“What people are saying is happening everywhere in the city,” she added. “This is a strong neighbourhood. We’re all pulling together.”

Her first days in business were proof of that.

“When we hung the outdoor sign, a city cop came and told me that it looked really cool and that he was glad to see a new business here.”

The building happens to be a former barbershop in which McRoberts’ grandfather got his hair cut when young.

“I really like that connection,” she said.

Dog Eat Dog has a creative business model. She carries the products of 22 other local artisans who make everything from one-of-a-kind lamps and pillows to stained glass and pottery.  Five woodworkers have furniture in her store, each with their own style.

“It’s about collaboration, not competition,” McRoberts said. “We’re all here to support one another. I just want everyone to do whatever it is that makes their heart sing.”

Each artisan pays a monthly flat rate to display their products at Dog Eat Dog, and pockets all the money from their sold items.

The model ensures McRoberts can cover her rent, insurance and utilities before selling any of her own furniture and accessories.

She said she chooses vendors based on how well they fit her vision. They also have to be exclusive to Dog Eat Dog.

For example, Simply Harvest Creations of Petrolia makes large rustic furniture. A 7-foot-high wet bar is priced at $2,000. Dirty Garage Sarnia Accessories makes lamps from recycled tools and car parts. They range in price from $150 to $275.

A set of chimes made with recycled materials by the Artisan Goddess retails for $40, while With an I Creatives makes throw pillows for $16 – $42, again from recycled materials.

Also in the showroom are large wall clocks made by McRoberts (for $85 – $165), tables, shelves, shadow boxes and more.

In warmer weather she plans to have benches outside the front door, with some artisans working on the sidewalk, she said.

“This place has a lot of character.  I want people to come, feel comfortable and hang out, just like they did when it was a barbershop.”

Dog Eat Dog is open Wednesday from 12 noon to 7 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon – 6 p.m. and Sundays Noon – 4.  Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Got a great business story? Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.