Furry friends will help to add a spark to their human's social lives -- as well as their own -- at Bark Social, which is coming to Downtown Columbia in 2024. (Submitted photo by Monica McClellan)

‘Our revenue should rise’

Cherie Sustainable Bridal, Savage Mill

Since 2001, Success In Style Founder Jeannette Kendall has helped people in crisis dress to impress while negotiating the job market. In its earlier days, the nonprofit routinely conducted fundraisers to survive. However, as time passed, inventory rose.

That strong stock led to the end of traditional fundraising, the opening of a retail business in 2008, the move from Ellicott City to Savage Mill in 2011 and “the recent investment of $100,000 to expand,” Kendall said. That’s because Cherie Sustainable Bridal, which opened in 2014, now offers for sale a selection of 450 “pre-loved” wedding dresses.

Today, she operates CSB from the store at Savage Mill and another in Glen Burnie, with studios in Savage Mill; Laurel; and at Job Corps campuses in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, and Washington, D.C. She’s also negotiating to work with a local prison.

She said even during the COVID-19 shutdown, business has been brisk. People saved money on weddings and invested in their homes instead,” she said, “but the brides still usually wanted a wedding dress.”

While CSB used to sell “10-12 dresses for $6,000 per week,” it now has a second dressing room, said Kendall, “so our revenue should rise.”

Caption: To come

‘Business has been fantastic’

Madrid Spanish Taverna, Columbia

Creating a business plan is time-consuming, but Abe Ruiz took careful preparation to another level before he opened Madrid Spanish Taverna: he conducted his research in Spain and took 21 years to do so.

That attention to detail has led to success for the bistro’s founder and operator, who’s served as the longtime CEO of the Colon Gerena Restaurant Group, which franchises and runs restaurants in Puerto Rico. Coincidentally, he lived in Columbia in the early ’90s.

The Taverna was founded in 2021 in Roswell, Georgia “out of pure pandemic-induced boredom,” he said. “[Management] from the Columbia Greene Turtle location saw our concept, brought us here and provided backup for a ghost kitchen. That’s huge when you’re getting a small business going and was even more so [earlier in] the pandemic.” 

The Maryland location opened in its own space, in the same strip center as the Turtle, in July 2022, with “an investment of $200,000,” Ruiz said. “Business has been fantastic. I think it’s because our customers feel like they’re in Spain.”

Opening in the face of the industry’s workforce and supply chain issues demonstrated “the resiliency” of its employees, he said. “They’ve been most creative when they needed to be.”

‘We can work together’

Maryland Veterans Chamber of Commerce, College Park

In 2018, the Maryland Veterans Chamber of Commerce got off to a solid start. CEO Emmett Roberts had established organizational bylaws and had even held a launch event that “was attended by about 200 veterans,” he said.

Roberts felt like he was moving right along. Then came the COVID-19 shutdown.

When the business climate eventually improved, he “reengaged with existing membership” and is “hoping to gain thousands of new members, so we can work together,” he said. “That’s what veterans are taught to do in the military.”

Roberts’ next effort to expand his ranks will be the MVCC’s first Business Conference, which is set to be held at the MGM National Harbor on May 11-12. “We’re hoping as many as 1,000 veterans will attend,” Roberts said. “We need to attract more than 20 sponsors to get the members paid for and in attendance, and I think we’ll reach that goal.”

With more than 362,000 vets living in Maryland (according to the state Department of Veterans Affairs) in 2020, the time is now “to offer networking, training programs and assortment of webinars for entrepreneurs,” he said, “with the goal of facilitating financing opportunities for businesses.”

‘I’m excited’

Bobby Trosset, Sports Blogger

After Bobby Trosset’s four-year run as a broadcaster at WBAL Radio/98 Rock ended in spring 2022, he’d gained a refined vision of how he wanted to package sports content: in a word, digitally.

“My focus had been play-by-play (still his first love), studio shows and the traditional steps,” said Trosset, “but given the way the industry is changing, I feel the best approach is to create and own my content.” 

While he misses the easier access to interviewees and fans that comes with working for a 50,000-watt blowtorch, since last fall he’s created video and audio content from a studio in Downtown Baltimore. “We’re seeing pro athletes retiring and starting their own podcasts,” he said, “so I’m following their approach.”

And he’s made great strides: at press time, Trosset’s YouTube channel had garnered about 325,000 views in the past 30 days and 1.1 million during the past 90; on his audio channel, The Vault, the numbers are 154,000 and 500,000, respectively.

“The Vault could be my most effective channel moving forward,” he said. “Today, I’m working to build a sales team. I’ve signed Valley Deck & Patio, while other potential sponsors continue to flirt. I’m excited that my channels are growing organically, because digital is the future.” 

Coming to Columbia

Bark Social, Columbia

For Luke Silverman, it was an easy decision to expand Bethesda-based Bark Social, a bar and cafe that gives dog owners a place to sip cool libations and munch out while they hang with Fido ’n Sparky, to Downtown Columbia.

That’s because the location “will be close to several dog-friendly buildings,” said Silverman, founder and CEO, adding that The Howard Hughes Corp. has worked with Bark Social “for more than three years” to ensure a 2024 opening for the company, which presently operates from North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose mixed-use development and Baltimore’s Canton address. Next on the agenda will be locations in suburban Philadelphia (followed by Columbia) and Los Angeles. 

Bark Social is a full-service drinker with food offerings ranging from breakfast sandwiches to loaded nachos to wings ’n fries ― plus, of course, a dog menu featuring sweet potato chips, duck and beef treats, “pupsicles,” etc.

Prices for dogs (humans are free) range from $9.99 for a day pass to $364.99 for an annual membership. And if case you’re wondering, Bark Social is working with the Howard County Health Department’s Food Protection Program on the formation of a plan review. “We’ll work within their framework,” said Silverman, “to ensure that we’re compliant and in good standing.”