North Adams has a lot going for it. There’s MASS MoCA, one of the largest art museums in the country, the Berkshire Art Museum, the rail trail, the FreshGrass Festival ... the list goes on.
But they’ve also got one of the country’s only dog museums.
The Museum of Dog, which opened in April, is filled with (as one might guess) all things dog: dogs, rare dog collars, sculptures, dog cufflinks paintings, etc.
It’s the brainchild of David York, a serial entrepreneur and marketer from Memphis, Tennessee. He started out in the fashion industry, helping to create and market private label brands with Macy’s. After he left that, York got into the restaurant industry, starting a restaurant chain. But after opening 36 locations, he wanted to do something else, something he was personally passionate about.
He decided to open Barking Hound Village in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1998.
“Back then, the veterinarians did the boarding,” York said. A dog-boarding business was rare, but it seems like he was just a few years ahead of the curve because they’re all over the country today.
York has had a winding career path, but no matter what, dogs remained his first passion. So when he sold the Barking Hound Village chain and moved to the Berkshires last year, he knew somehow dogs would be part of his next venture.
Turns out, they’re the point of it.
“I just realized that I had so much dog memorabilia,” York said. Over the years, friends have given him rare and unique dog-related gifts and he's collected more than a few historic dog collars. We’re talking hundreds of years old.
“Leeds Castle in England, they have a [Dog Collar Museum]. Our collection rivals that one,” York said. That includes antique collars from the 1800s, when bell collars were in style, and beyond.
But it’s not all collars. The museum also has plenty to offer in the way of visual arts.
“We have two William Wegman originals,” York said, in reference to the artist perhaps best known for his photograph series with dogs.
There are also originals by Kathy Ruttenberg, a Hudson Valley artist whose whimsical style sculptures have recently taken over New York City.
Dogs, of course, are welcomed at the museum.
“I think we had 10 dogs in here at once,” York said.
He’s also opening up the back patio of the museum as well as a coffee shop (called Perk Coffee Shop) and running a food truck so people can stay all afternoon. Since opening, he’s found that most visitors want to just hang out and talk with other dog lovers. They have tours that visitors can schedule ahead of their visit.
People near and far have come to see the eccentric museum, including people from the United Kingdom. But York has also found that some visitors come back to see what has become of the building over the years. It was built in the 1800s and was a saloon, before becoming Quinn’s Paint and Wallpaper. York kept the old safe from the store and some people who grew up in the area come back to visit the place. (Photo Courtesy of Barry Goldstein: Dog statute and products at the Museum of Dog in North Adams.)
Although the Museum of Dog is really the only dog-centric establishment in the area, York said there’s something special happening in North Adams. When he came to visit before deciding to move, he stayed at the Porches Inn and took in everything from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Berkshire Museum, and the general atmosphere of the town.
“[I felt like] something good is happening here,” York said.
He’s hoping on expanding that “something good,” planning to create a dog park across the street and a sculpture park, for which he’s hoping to involve local students.
As 2018 is the official Year of the Dog and York plans to make the Museum of Dog a big part of North Adams’ Fall Foliage parade.
“Dogs are going to take over North Adams,” York said.
If you visit this summer, call ahead and schedule a tour at the Museum of Dog before heading off to MASS MoCA or maybe a walk with your pup at Cascade trail, where you’ll find a waterfall.
There’s also plenty of great eateries to fill you up along the way; try Gramercy Bistro in MASS MoCA or PUBLIC eat and drink. Plus, the Museum of Dog has food options for visiting pups too.
For more information about the Museum of Dog visit museumofdog.com.
Museum of Dog
55 Union St., North Adams, MA
Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday