When it comes to working retail, dogs mean business.
Canines are at the forefront of customer relations on the island from Worth Avenue to the North End, patiently providing a warm and fuzzy shopping experience in exchange for nothing more than a pat on the head or a quick scratch behind the ear.
"Palm Beach likes its dogs, but this area of Worth Avenue in particular is very pet friendly," said Sherry Frankel, owner of Sherry Frankel’s Melangerie in the Via Amore Courtyard. "Whether you’re in a restaurant or a bar, no one sneers.
"It’s the whole islandy thing. It’s part of paradise."
Frankel has Dash, a 6-year-old standard poodle who greets customers at her shop, which features merchandise ranging from the elegant to the wacky and the whimsical.
She’s had dogs in her store for 25 years, and Dash is the nephew of two of his predecessors, Magic and Jolly.
Hence the name: "I was trying to come up with a name for him and I thought well, he’s a dash of Magic and a dash of Jolly. So, I thought ... Dash.
"I have to say he’s very comforting to customers who come in, and might be from out of town and miss their own dogs. Dash brings a smile to their face."
A hand-printed sign on her door says: "Hello! We open at 11:00-ish. If my big poodle, Dash, is quick, I’ll be here sooner!"
Frankel says four shops in Via Amore have dogs — although some of them aren’t in every day.
That’s also the case across town at Mildred Hoit, a women’s clothing shop at 265 Sunrise Ave. Charlie, a tiny 4-year-old English bull dog, entertains customers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But shoppers know right away whether Charlie is on duty. A sign on the door says: "Charlie is here" or "Charlie is not here."
"She takes the summers off, like a lot of people," said Heather Cruz, merchandise manager and owner of the dog.
Cruz said the dog likes to lounge beneath the clothing racks, but is often seeing playing with men whose wives are browsing in the store. "She entertains them," said Cruz. "She likes to play fetch with a tennis ball."
Charlie's reputation apparently stretches beyond the island.
"We have people coming in here from out of state, and they'll say, ‘Where is Charlie?’ I've heard a lot about her.’ "
Charlie "makes shopping a better experience," Cruz said. "Shopping should be experiential."
Back on Worth Avenue, Trillion — a men’s and women’s clothing store at No. 315 — has its own customer relations department with Jet, a 4-year-old miniature poodle.
"We’ve been here for 35 years and we’ve had a number of dogs," said owner-manager Tatiana Van Zandt. Jet is often found sitting in a chair with his head resting on the service desk. "He's part of this whole operation. He brings in customers."
Co-owner David Neff said: "During the season we keep the door open and he sits by it. Sometimes someone will come in and we’ll ask if he needs some help, but he doesn’t want to be bothered. We say OK, but then he’ll start talking to the dog. He says, ‘I've got a dog like that myself.’ It helps break the ice."
Not to be outdone, the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce now has two dogs in its office on Royal Palm Way. One is Molly, a 2-year-old black retriever mix that Monique Classen, member relations coordinator, picked up at Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves. She was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Georgia.
"She was kind of timid at first," Classen said. "But once she got accustomed to coming in to work and being in that environment, she really blossomed. She's wicked smart.
"She does really well with folks coming into the chamber. She waits to be told it's OK to go say hi, then she'll say hi with her tail wagging. She gets very excited when folks come in."
Molly is paired up with Liam, a 4-month-old miniature schnauzer owned by chamber Chief Executive Officer Laurel Baker. She hadn’t intended to get a dog, but saw Liam amid a litter of new puppies and "it was the kiss of death" because he was so cute.
"Sometimes you see a pair of shoes and you just know immediately you want them," Baker said.
Shop owners love their dogs; but having them around also makes good business sense.
"It is every marketer’s goal to make an emotional connection with their target audience," Linda Fanaras, president and founder of the Millennium Agency, a branding, public relations and data analytics firm in Boston, said in a blog post on the agency's website. It was titled: Why Animals Work in Advertising.
"However, this is often easier said than done. The way that you make an emotional connection with your audience is to relate to them, often on a personal level. For the most part, we all like animals and using them in advertising is an excellent way to capture our attention."
Dogs in Palm Beach businesses also make the environments more relaxed, Baker said. "It’s very welcoming. It’s like you’re saying, ‘Come into my house.’ If nothing else it’s an ice breaker. Somebody hoity-toity comes in and it makes them smile.
"Now we have people coming by just to see the dogs ... forget about us!"