‘The people who come in here are always happy people — they’re a different breed,” says Margo Orland, owner of Picky Paws in Lambertville, oblivious to the pun she’s just made. It’s a far cry from her brother’s business — Orland Ewing Memorial Chapel, a funeral home in Ewing started by their father over 50 years ago.
Orland, who grew up in Trenton, two blocks from Cadwalader Park, was the number one ranked female junior tennis player in Mercer County. When she graduated from Mercer County Community College in the early 1970s with a degree in allied health and mortuary science, she found herself having to decide which family business path to follow — in addition to the funeral home her father had also bought a clothing store, Harold’s, on the corner of North Union and Church streets in Lambertville.
“We’ve owned that corner for 60 years,” says Orland, whose mother, a Lambertville native, was born across the street. After working with her parents and then taking over Harold’s and serving a stint as a buyer for Paul Stewart in New York, Orland went back to school to earn a two-year degree in ophthalmic technology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She then opened her own business, Eyecall Inc., doing contract diagnostic testing for a group of retina specialists in Annapolis, MD.
But last year her mom entered Greenwood House, a nursing home in Ewing, and Orland decided it was time to come back to the roost. When a space on Church Street in the section her family owns became vacant, Orland picked the perfect business — a clothing store for pets that also sells high-end toys, collars, leashes, beds, and carriers. After years of working for herself, now, says Orland, “I work for her,” referring to Jersey Girl, her 9 and 1/2-month-old morkie (a Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier mix). “I have a sign that says ‘Walking the Pooch’ that I put up when I take her out.”
Picky Paws is indeed a pet boutique. The Zazu dog bed from Italy is shaped like an igloo and comes in European orange or green stripes. Fatboy beds from Amsterdam can be used indoors or out and can be hosed off. There are jean jackets and equestrian-style blankets for dogs.
Orland loves the line of luxury knock-off items from Haute Diggedy Dog, which was just featured on Good Morning America — including a knock-off of a Mercedes dog bed called Furcedes, and soft toys in the shape of shoes called Jimmy Chew and Bark Jacobs or in the shape of a purse called Chewy Vuitton or the shape of an iPod called iPaw.
On Saturday, October 28, Retro Pup presents a trunk show, where customers can pick their own retro fabric and the company will custom-make a dog bed with it.
Orland, who is single, has turned Picky Paws into a social life of its own. On the second Saturday of each month — in conjunction with the Lambertville-New Hope Second Saturdays series, when the towns’ galleries and stores stay open late and musicians deck the sidewalks — Orland holds a “Mutt Mingle” outside the store. “Lambertville is a very pet-friendly town,” says Orland. “So many people have dogs and they like to get together and congregate.” Each Mutt Mingle has a theme. “In the summer, I serve Mutt Licks, ice cream for dogs,” says Orland, who posts a sandwich-board sign that says “BYOB — Bring Your Own Breed” on the corner to attract pet owners.
And on Saturday, October 14, in honor of Halloween, the Mutt Mingle will actually be the second annual Pet Masquerade, a tradition started last year by the owners of Monkey Hill (which has since moved to New Hope). “This is a fabulous event,” says Orland. “Last year there were over 200 pets — all dressed up for Halloween.” This year, Church Street will be closed off for the event — and Orland has ordered some very special libations for the pooches, Happy Tails ale, a Napa Valley brew made especially for dogs.
Orland called on every store and gallery in Lambertville and has culled a stockpile of prizes worth barking about — a $350 bowl from George Evans, a prominent antique dealer; three original paintings from the Hrefna Jonsdottir Gallery, a gift basket valued at $250 from Monkey Hill, lunch for two at Lambertville Station, dinners at Hamilton Grill and Rick’s, and more. Proceeds benefit Animal Alliance in Belle Mead, a pet rescue organization that provides foster care and placement for “death row” cats and dogs.
So, what’s Jersey Girl going to dress up as? “Wonder Girl.” And is it just cats and dogs that come to the parade? “Oh, no,” says Orland. “Last year we had a hedgehog.”
Pet Masquerade, Saturday, October 14, 3 to 6 p.m., Picky Paws, One Church Street, Lambertville. Registration ($10) takes place 3 to 5 p.m.; parade starts at 5 p.m.; winners announced at 6 p.m. Volunteers from Animal Alliance will be on hand to talk about pet adoption. Also, Retro Pup Trunk Show, Saturday, October 28, noon. to 5 p.m., custom dog bed maker. 609-397-7297.