ALEXANDRIA, VA – Karen Johnson just hit the happiness trifecta when she combined dogs, Del Ray and restaurants and put it all on a t-shirt. What’s even more impressive is that she does not want a dime. All sales of the $25 t-shirt which are available in purple and green are going toward the employee funds at Del Ray restaurants.
When the COVID 19 pandemic forced the canceling of area activities, including pop-up markets and festivals, Karen Johnson, founder of PawsGo, an online community of people bonding over dogs, decided to redirect her resources and give back to her Del Ray neighborhood, in particular the restaurants. You see, Karen is the also chairman of the popular festival, the Taste of Del Ray, which was also canceled this year.
“My husband and I get carry out from a local restaurant practically every night,” Karen said. “We’ve taken all our dry cleaning to the Greener Cleaner and OVER spoiled our dogs with treats from Nature’s Nibble and The Dog Store — we want to do what we can to support the local business owners that make Del Ray such a wonderful place to live.
We’ve watched as the restaurants have adjusted their hours, their staff and their offerings — really struggling to stay one step ahead of the economy and hold on to customers and staff. Several years ago, PawsGo created the My Dog Digs Del Ray t-shirts to support renovations at the Simpson Dog Park and they were incredibly popular,” she continued. “One morning while out with the dogs, I thought, why not create a dog-themed shirt to support the restaurants?”
It Takes a Village
Later that morning Karen emailed Lisa Carey, a local artist and designer who has created some of PawsGo’s designs and volunteers her talents for Art on the Avenue. Lisa volunteered to source the shirts and brought artist Chris Bishop to the project. Both Lisa and Chris donated their talents to the project.
“Lisa spent a tremendous amount of time finding the shirts and negotiating a price that would make a large order work with my budget,” Karen said. “Chris absolutely blew me away with his design, he nailed it with his first sketch. He took a bulleted email and a little background to capture the Del Ray vibe perfectly.”
Available Now at Area Restaurants
All Del Ray restaurants that have been open since the beginning of the pandemic were offered the shirts to sell on behalf of their employees. The shirts are $25. They come in Del Ray green and purple and are in adult sizes small – xl-arge. Restaurants were also given a limited number of kid’s shirts with a different design.
The following restaurants requested the shirts and currently have them available — Hops N Shine, Taqueria Poblano, Junction Bakery & Bistro, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, Northside 10, and Pork Barrel/Holy Cow. Residents interested in a shirt should contact their favorite restaurant directly. As other restaurants are added, they will be announced on the Alexandria Curbside Dining Facebook Page.