Kelvin Abrams isn't afraid to take a risk. In 2008, the then federal investigator dusted off an old, college business plan and opened Tiki's Playhouse, a cage-less doggy daycare and boarding facility located off of Route 32 in Glenelg.
Last month, after a few nudges from his daycare customers, Abrams opened another novel business called K-9 & Coffee.
"My business is dogs, but I wanted to do something different and I thought about a coffee shop," he said. "I pitched the idea to a couple clients and everybody was like: 'That would be awesome; that would be great.' So I started looking into it."
Located adjacent to his boarding facility, the canine-themed coffee shop operates like any other coffee shop during the week, serving organic coffee from Columbia-based Orinoco Coffee & Tea to all two-legged patrons craving coffee.
But on weekends it becomes something more as Abrams opens up his boarding facility's half-acre doggy playground, usually reserved for daycare and boarding patrons, to the public. Local dog owners are invited to drop off their pup and grab a cup while they watch their four-legged friends socialize with other canines.
Abrams said the business, which opened Oct. 20, is a community-oriented operation filling a pair of needs.
The first, he says, is to give local residents access to a dog park-like area. The county's two other dog parks are in Columbia and Ellicott City, a 15-minute drive for nearby residents.
"In this area of Howard County, there are no dog parks," Abrams said. "The two dog parks don't suit the needs of the people here. So we figured we'd do a playground – don't call it a dog park – and let the dogs come out in the weekends and play in the yard."
The second, he says, is to give local residents a real coffee shop and cafe.
"The only coffee here is Subway and the two gas stations," Abrams said. "I think once people really start to realize we are here, it's going to get busy."
As a nod to his customers, Abrams named menu items after dogs housed in his daycare facility. He also gave the cup sizes canine-themed monikers: 12 ounces is a bulldog, 16 ounces is a Weimaraner and 20 ounces is a Mastiff. If you want a large latte, you'll be ordering a "Mastiff Chester."
So far most of the coffee shop's patronage comes from Abrams regular customers, who grab a cup-to-go after dropping their dog off at the daycare facility.
But word is spreading.
Glenelg resident John Brandenburg, a dog owner and former client of Abrams, stopped by the cafe on Saturday. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the shop and decided to stop after seeing the sign out front.
"I've been waiting for a coffee shop to come to Glenelg for some time," Brandenburg said. "A lot of people have said that because there's nothing."
Ellicott City resident David Stratmann, who uses Tiki's daycare services for his two dogs, agrees.
"There's no real coffee shop," Stratmann said. "I think it's a good concept. ... I think it will get people together in the neighborhood and community."
Abrams said he might explore adding some food options – it offers only beverages and some packaged snacks – but that his goals for the shop are schnauzer-sized.
"We are really looking to try and service this community here," he said. "We really want this to be a community-based environment, a community coffee shop and a community playground area."
The venture hasn't come without challenges. Because of county health codes, dogs can't accompany their owners in the coffee shop, Abrams said. He has worked out a solution, though: patrons can drop of their dogs at the daycare center first and then make their way to the coffee shop next door -- the two are connected by an interior door and exterior deck.