Photo of Blacksburg Campus, with Arch with Dog

Virginia Tech Alums Bring Innovative Idea to Life for Dog and Beer lovers in Alexandria

July 31, 2019

Recent Virginia Tech graduates Alex Benbassat and Justin LeGore are bringing their shared enthusiasm for man's best friend to an exciting new venture called Brewski's Barkhaus. Aiming to be the world's first dog bar, dog park, and dog shelter all in one location; Barkhaus playfully combines the words bar, bark, park, and Haus (house in German, and a nod to the Bauhaus movement). Beyond a mere space, it is a social dog movement that will provide an alternative to the typical adoption procedure by combining food, drinks, and dogs in a social environment.

This unique concept was shaped by the skills and expertise both men acquired and honed at Virginia Tech. Alex, an architecture student, and Justin, a business management student with a concentration in entrepreneurship, met by chance in 2014 when both were looking for roommates. They ended up becoming best friends and lived together for the next few years.

While he was in school, Justin had always wanted to start a bar after graduation, and he had even developed a distinctive idea for one. However, he realized that he still needed to learn a bit more about the practical side of starting a business.

Following the advice of Professor Sean Collins, (Director, Innovate Living-Learning Community Program at Pamplin College of Business), he decided to join a small start-up to get close with the owner and learn what it's like to start and grow a company.

Justin moved to work with a startup solar company in Charlotte, N.C., where Alex was already working as an intern at an architecture firm. Each day after work they would take Alex's dog to a local dog park and bar. It was at this point where the two began to discuss the idea of a dog park and dog bar of their own.

A year later, Justin had worked in a variety of different positions across the country and had gained experience of growing a business. With the dog park idea still fresh in his mind, Justin began a business plan for a dog park/tap house in the D.C. metropolitan region.

Coincidentally, Alex had just moved to Alexandria to finish his five-year architecture degree at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC). An urban extension of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design, WAAC pedagogy emphasizes freedom and responsibility as partners in ethical design practice. Students have the freedom to choose their own studio and thesis projects, then take on the responsibility to realize those projects.

With key support from his thesis adviser, Susan Piedmont-Palladino (Director, WAAC), Alex decided to create a thesis program that included their original idea of a dog bar and park but with a twist to the present-day animal shelter. His goal was to use architecture to better the relationships between dogs and humans through a dog bar, park, and shelter. He dedicated an entire year of research and design to truly understand the benefits dogs have on humans and vice versa.

Once Alex told Justin about his thesis program, they immediately decided to join forces and became business partners. They began working with the Alexandria Small Business Development Center to finalize the business side of their concept. By utilizing the resources and guidance from the city and Virginia Tech, Alex and Justin made a business plan and now plan to fully run the business themselves.

Alex completed his undergraduate thesis this year and is now working with KUBE Architecture in Washington D.C. to see his concept come to life.

To spread awareness to potential investors, the pair along with the city will host the first-ever "Old Town Beer, Wine, and Dog Festival" on August 17, 2019, at the Waterfront Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

The day festival will be a mockup of what their concept will be, which will be a fenced, leash-less public event with local breweries/wineries, live music, food trucks. Lucky Dog Animal Rescue will also bring adoptable dogs for guests to potentially take home a new furry friend.

For more info on the festival click here.