BarkBox Is Thinking Outside the Box With a New Experimental Retail Concept

Bark, the company behind BarkBox, is thinking outside of its toy boxes delivered monthly to more than 600,000 subscribers each month with the debut of its own kind of dog park.

Dubbed “BarkPark,” the dog park isn’t an ordinary dog park but rather a “members-only outdoor clubhouse where dogs are the members.”

The first BarkPark is scheduled to open on September 8 in Nashville, Tenn. It will be open daily between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. through November. The BarkPark will encompass a landscaped green space designed for dogs to run around as well as access to plenty of Bark-branded toys and treats. (Bark currently produces more than 430 new toys each year.) The park is promised to be cleaned regularly, and there will be BarkPark “hosts” who are also trained professionals to monitor dog play and ensure safety for all attendees.

But as much as this is a place for dogs, it is clearly also meant to be a space for their human companions to enjoy well, tapping into the documented trend among consumers looking to spend more on experiences—especially those that photograph for Instagram well—these days. The park will be putting on a number of events, at least twice weekly, including “Downward Dog Yoga” and “Okto-Bark-Fest.” The park will also host some of Bark’s existing programming already held routinely in other cities, such as the Open Bark Night comedy show.

Additionally, for the owners, BarkPark will have on-site restrooms, “comfy” seating, human-grade snacks, and perhaps most crucially, coffee and Wi-Fi.

Doodles of the BarkBox space by artist Dave Coverly.Dave Coverly/BarkBox
Dave Coverly/BarkBox

The subscription service has already touted itself as an experience for dogs and their owners, with a new theme to each month’s arrival. Past themes have tapped into holidays (Halloween is a popular one), pop culture (including a whole box dedicated to the ’90s), and other creative ventures that often involve a good pun (including “Secrets of the Rainfurrest”). Many BarkBox subscribers also share these experiences via social media through “unboxing” videos on Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Bark also has a small but crucial presence at some dog parks in New York City. The company, which has its headquarters in Lower Manhattan, sponsors stations constantly stocked with spools of free plastic bags in the company’s signature bright blue shade, which owners can use to clean up their dogs’ mess when needed.

While the Nashville BarkPark is initially only a pop-up venture for now, BarkBox has ambitions to open more locations nationwide in the future. BarkPark also serves as an experimental retail channel for Bark. It follows the brand’s launch in more than 1,800 Target stores nationwide last August, followed up by Urban Outfitters earlier this month. Bark plans to announce more retail partners soon.

Yet perhaps nothing else distinguishes the BarkPark from your average neighborhood dog park than the price to get in. Dog parks are typically free to enter, but don’t come with many—if any—perks.

Membership at BarkPark encompasses one dog and up to two humans. (Bark suggests “each dog to come with his/her two favorite humans, so bring a friend, a coworker, or a hot date.”) Memberships will go on sale in mid-August, and pricing is tiered at daily ($19), monthly ($48), and season passes ($78). Discounts are available for multi-dog homes and local Nashville businesses. Events held at the park, like the comedy show and yoga meetups, are free to attend for all members.

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