Vincent Rao has owned Village Tailor and Cleaner in the upscale New York City neighborhood Soho for more than 40 years, with celebs like Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez, Justin Theroux, Famke Jensen, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick frequenting the shop. And while people may patronize the store for its exceptional service, Rao’s dog Bruno may have a little something to do with it.
For the past 10 years, Bruno, a fawn French Bulldog, has taken up residency outside Village Tailor and Cleaner, attracting many friends and admirers, with some people visiting the neighborhood just to say hi to him, Rao tells This Dog’s Life. Bruno has not only become the mascot of the neighborhood, but also the community anointed him the “Mayor of Sullivan Street,” where Village Tailor and Cleaners is located.
“He just sits outside the store, looking so lovable and always asking for affection. He just loves to be petted,” says Rao. “The affection he gives out to people makes him a staple to the community here in Soho.”
Rao said ever since he got Bruno, his four-legged friend hasn’t left his side. “It’s just always been part of Bruno’s routine to follow me, so he goes with me to work every day,” Rao said. “He’s just got used to being with us at work; it’s all he’s ever known and we love having him with us at the store. He truly makes us happy while we work.”
But when the pandemic hit, the beloved dog disappeared from his post on Sullivan Street for five months.
“We didn’t go to the city or open the store for all those months, and not only was it a tough economic hit, we heard from countless people in the community that Bruno was missed.”
This isn’t necessarily surprising considering that a pilot study launched by Mars Corporation (the company behinds many pet brands) in Franklin, Tenn. found that nearly half (49 percent) of business owners believe having a dog in their store is good for business.
“Based on our survey findings, we know that residents not only value the ability to bring pets in more places, but they believe that having pets in more places, including shop dogs, fosters an increased sense of community and social connections — and even customer loyalty,” Jam Stewart, director of Mars Petcare corporate communications, said.
So, when businesses began reopening, Village Tailor and Cleaners followed suit, and Bruno was back at his post right outside the shop.
“It really made a difference when we came back. You could tell people were happy and Bruno was happy to see people again,” Rao said. “Sullivan Street is just not the same without Bruno.”
That all changed when Bruno was snatched in front of the store in September. Not only was his family devastated, but so was the neighborhood.
“When we realized he was stolen, we were beyond heart broken,” Rao said. “Bruno is part of our family, so as you can imagine it was like losing one of your sons, we were devastated.”
But after reporting to the police and having actor Theroux push out a lost dog alert to his social media followers, someone stepped up with information about Bruno. Rao was soon reunited with his beloved dog.
Rao, who, along with his family runs Bruno’s social media account, said they are overwhelmed with the response they have received. “Without this social media support, we would have never been able to find him when he was stolen, so we’re thankful for that,” Rao said. “The Instagram and social media following for Bruno just proves how much joy he brings to this neighborhood and our lives.”