WHERE GUESTS BARK OUT LOUD
“You guys want to go see Connie?”
The query sends CJ and Annaka skittering to their leashes.
The 9-year-old bichon frisé pups have been hanging out with
Connie Romano at Bark Out Loud Pet Boutique and Café since
the doors opened.
The owners, Crystal Brown-Tatum and her husband, Phillip, live within walking distance of their fur-kids’ favorite place.
Brown-Tatum noted that convenience initially piqued her interest.
“It’s next door to where we live, so seeing a new dog boutique
in the neighborhood naturally brought me in,” she says.
However, it’s the overall atmosphere of the store, and the attitude of the owner and staff, that keeps the family coming back.
“Connie is like a part of our family,” Brown-Tatum says. “She
really takes an interest in our dogs and engages with them, re-
members things about them and makes recommendations. She
is very knowledgeable and sincere about all her customers and
It’s an attitude that permeates throughout the establishment.
“Her staff is bubbly and engaging,” she says. “It’s such a fun
place to visit.”
When CJ and Annaka enjoy a dog’s day out or observe birth-
days at the café, visiting pooches and their people are always
welcome to join in the celebration. As a result, friendships, both
human and canine, are formed.
That ambiance attracts dog lovers from all walks of life.
“It’s a magical place where strangers unite and engage in con-
versation and laughter,” Brown-Tatum says. “In a crazy world,
pets and their owners can find a safe haven at Bark Out Loud
Doggie Boutique and Café.”
together. This is my fun.”
The Bark Out Loud experience begins when pet own-
ers and their fur-kids pass through the door.
“I try to remember the name of every dog that walks
in, and we take pictures of each one,” Romano says.
“When I ask an owner if I can post the photo on our Face-
book page, they are thrilled.”
Customers joining the Best Fur Friend, or BFF, Club
receive a membership card, and after the fifth visit, BFFs
nosh a free bakery cookie. Pet owners receive a vehicle
magnet, and a selfie with their pet is displayed on the
Bark Out Loud BFF wall.
Shopping discounts are offered to firefighters, police
officers and members of the military.
“We always support these folks,” Romano says.
GROWING WITH DEMAND
Initially, Bark Out Loud offered a limited range of retail
items, but as the popularity of the enterprise gained momentum, customer requests swelled. Romano took note,
and the inventory evolved.
“I carried some retail products in the beginning,” she
says. “We had a huge case of gourmet treats—that is my
big thing—along with dog beer, wine, natural chews,
and some unique toys and apparel, items not available
at the big-box stores, but selections grew with customer
The progression included an expansion of food
“Initially, I carried one brand of dog food, available
in kibble and canned,” she says. “I wanted to take baby
The introduction of raw foods occurred when a new
resident telephoned with an urgent need for a particular
brand of frozen raw food for her dogs.
“It was a Sunday night. I called my distributor, who
put me in touch with the representative,” she says. “I
didn’t even have a freezer at that point.”
The plan gelled within a few days.
“I bought a freezer, and the rest is history,” Romano says.
“I feed raw to my own dogs, so I am a
testimonial to the health benefits,” she says.
“More customers are coming in, and the cat-
egory is growing.”
Food options also include freeze-dried,
canned and kibble. Supplements have joined
the mix, including an offering that has been
very well received.
“I stock raw goat’s milk supplied by
Peach Tree Hill Goats, a local farm,” she says.
“We sell out of it all the time.”
In addition to mealtime sustenance, the
aroma of an assortment of treats—including
those found at the “raw bar,” where freeze-
dried body parts are displayed—tantalize
“Once the benefits of the body parts are
explained, customers purchase them, and
then come back for more,” Romano added.
The wide variety of pet supplies includes
boutique items, leashes, collars, harnesses,
backpacks, safety collars, toys and more.
A medley of human gift items, such
as One Fur All’s Pet House Candles, pet-themed towels, socks, signs, books and
greeting cards are in stock. T-shirts are also
in the mix, including Romano’s own original
“One shirt has a wine glass illustration on it and says, ‘Which wine pairs best
with dog hair?’ The other has a mug, saying ‘Which mug pairs best with dog hair?’” she says.
“When I take these shirts to events, people just buy the
heck out of them.”
When it comes to her employees, Romano says she
prefers to hire sales associates that have experience in the
retail world. Additionally, she seeks people who are fa-
miliar with canine behavior, for instance, dog sitters or
walkers, kennel assistants, vet techs or those who have
worked in the doggie day care world.
“Everyone here has some type of experience with
dogs, and that’s really important, because you can’t be
afraid and must know how to interact or manage them,”
she says. “I look for people who are able to diffuse a sit-
uation without fear and can read body language well
enough to see if something is coming on.”
As a result, Romano is proud that her store has had
Outstanding customer service is vital to the Bark Out
Loud experience, and a key reason why a retail background is crucial.
“If someone comes to the door at closing time, we say,
A FURRY KINSHIP
‘Come on in!’ and open back up,” she
says. “They might stay for 30 minutes,
but they remember and come back.”
Further, because she hires people
with a passion for animals and a back-
ground with dogs, nutritional infor-
mation is more readily absorbed. As
a result, these knowledgeable emis-
saries are ready and able to assist cus-
tomers in food and product selections.
As a long-time member of Dog Scouts
of America, a society that aims to im-
prove the lives of dogs through educa-
tion, training and community involve-
ment, Romano has been involved in
many of the organization’s outreach
Bark Out Loud
partnership with the
effort to provide pet
oxygen masks to area
fire departments by
raffling gift baskets
or gift certificates. To
date, 30 fire departments have been supplied with the life-saving gear.
Stuart also served as a spokes-dog for the local chapter.
“We have a photo of Stuart, as we presented our first
multiple sets to the Mansfield Fire Department, hanging
in our store,” she says. “It always makes me feel good to
know Stuart is still working it.”
Assisting the elderly in the care and feeding of their
pets, Bark Out Loud teams up with Dog Scouts of Amer-
ica to provide food, grooming, nail trimming, vaccina-
tions, and spaying and neutering services, in association
with Meals on Wheels.
“I’ve always had this spot in my heart for Meals on
Wheels,” she says. “I have done this for three years in
a row, and many pets have received free care that they
probably would not have had otherwise.”
The Don’t Forget to Feed Me pet food bank keeps
owners and pets together by providing pet food to those
in need in the North Texas area. Bark Out Loud custom-
ers participate in this effort through food donations at the
store, and each contributor receives a raffle ticket for two
Bark Out Loud gift-card drawings.
“We ended up raising 1,000 pounds of food the first
time we held this event,” Romano says.
In support of adoption, the store participates in Clear
the Shelters, an annual nationwide adoption event, with
62 North Texas shelters joining together to find homes for
adoptable pets need.
“I promote adoption whenever I can,” she says. “We
also provide a packet of information, product discounts
and products to newly adoptive pet parents to get them
started with their new family member.”
Community service includes providing low-cost vac-
cination clinics on a bi-monthly basis. Penny Paws Vet-
erinary Community Outreach sets up outside the store,
where a veterinarian and technicians provide low-cost
vaccinations, microchips, heartworm tests, rattlesnake
vaccine and nail trims.
“When I retired from General Motors, my co-workers
gave me a plaque that says, ‘Do what you love and love
what you do,’” Romano says. “I have those words hanging above a painting of Stuart here in the store. He was
truly my inspiration.”
The employees at Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café have previous ex-
perience with dogs, which helps them succeed, says owner Connie Romano.
Stuart, Connie Romano’s West
Highland white terrier, was the
inspiration for Bark Out Loud Pet
Boutique and Café. He passed
away in 2012.