Best friends since preschool, Anna Dewey Greer and Christine (Tina) Stormberg moved from Omaha to Los Angeles to open a bikini shop that was also a life/art project and also a girly wonderland, a place where they could have haircut parties, fortune-telling parties and craft parties, even drink margaritas outside. They called it Dog Show. And in the year and a half it's been open in Echo Park, it has become something of a scene.
It's hard to open a business in Los Angeles. Many fold within the first year. The success has come even though the two art-school grads had no formal business classes. No sewing classes, for that matter. And no retail experience, unless you count the time Greer worked at a balloon store.
What they had was a wad of money, squirreled away from a year of bartending and sharing a super-cheap Omaha apartment. They also had a ReloCube full of clothes — their own personal wardrobe, from years of obsessive thrifting — and a giant unicorn head.
Unfettered by conventional rules of business ownership, like "having a business model," or "cleaning dirt off of the wall from that one time when Lisa Pizza was doing keg stands in the shop," the two 26-year-olds have created a space without compromise, an unfiltered expression of their friendship and dreams.
So the walls are Pepto-Bismol pink. The cash register, also pink, was purchased at ToysRUs and speaks its calculations in three different languages. A wall of acrylic hair hangs from the ceiling on which they display hair accessories, and the kitty cat telephone doesn't ring for calls — it meows. The unicorn head, the one they brought from Omaha, is fixed at the center of the store's façade, exploding forth in a cluster of faux purple roses.
Sitting in a fuchsia beanbag chair, in jean cutoffs and fluffy dog slippers, Stormberg explains that Dog Show is about creating something that people can come and experience. "Another world," she says. The clothes, obtained via thrifting runs to Omaha, are secondary.
When the girls host in-store events, it's not a marketing strategy; the events are their agenda. Recently they've hosted a viewing party for a friend's web series, "Hollywood Nails"; comedy shows with another close friend, comedienne Kate Berlant, just because she was in town; an old-fashioned Valentine's Day dance, because they felt like decorating. Everything is free and open to the public.
This strategy runs contrary to any kind of logical business model, but it seems to be working. The space — and the girls themselves — have a special magnetism. The profits aren't enormous but, aided by the occasional freelance art-department job, Greer and Stormberg explain that they've figured out how to sustain their business.
"People will sometimes say, 'Oh, you're not doing that right,' " Stormberg says. "And I say, 'No, we're doing everything right.' Because we're just doing it, and what's really wrong? It always ends up working out the way it's supposed to, and the uncalculated part of this is what gives it its X factor."
Greer, in matching slippers, smiles in confirmation. "We're not afraid to be a little sloppy," she says.
After all, Dog Show was named for its aesthetic similarities to a dog in a dog show: "It's dressed up and fun, but it's still a dog, you know?" Greer says. "Maybe it's a little sloppy, but it's all about the show!"
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