STORY BY KAMRIN BAKER I PHOTOS BY BILL SITZMANN
RIPLEY & RUE REDEFINES "RETAIL'
APRIL • MAY I 49
A DOG GOODS RETAILER IN OMAHA MADE A GLOBAL PAW PRINT
The modern entrepreneur is sure to carry a few must-have accessories—perhaps a state-of-the-art laptop or a sleek water bottle—in the Silicon Prairie. Jeannie North, a local business owner, has two: an Aussiedoodle (Australian shepherd-poodle mix) named Ripley, and a mini goldendoodle named Rue. Her dogs have their own accessories.
North is the owner and founder of Ripley & Rue, a high-end retailer of dog goods based in Omaha. The company has a global wingspan, thanks to the World Wide Web's obsession with adorable dogs.
Ripley & Rue specializes in brightly colored bandanas, playful puppy toys (including "Barkie" and "Clueless" sets), and human goods such as apparel, stickers, buttons, and mugs.
North is a freelance web and graphic designer by trade, but when she began dressing up her doodles, she never turned back.
"I happened to pick up sewing, which I think is a lost art, and the easiest thing I could make at the time was dog bandanas," North said. "Luckily, they turned out pretty cute."
North's entrepreneurial mindset took off from there, and the business will celebrate its four-year anniversary in August 2020. Most of Ripley & Rue's growth is thanks to Instagram, where North said she gets most of her leads. Then, she typically converts those leads into email subscribers and customers. She has about 20,000 shoppers on her email list, and her wholesale platform, Faire, brings in stores and clientele from across the country. While North said the majority of her buyers live on the coasts, she has a deep appreciation for their Omaha roots.
"I feel like we're in the hub of where everything is going to take off," North said. "The cost is also low in this part of the country, and people are definitely wanting to help and see Omaha grow. There's definitely a lot of backing and positivity to help you grow your business here."
Ripley & Rue moved its operations from North's at-home studio to a suite in the Mastercraft building in north downtown Omaha in fall 2019, where North now employs three other people (their four-legged friends are, of course, welcome in the office) to help with production.
Expanding the reach of Ripley & Rue products is a global undertaking, as North and her team are the masterminds behind International Doodle Dog Day, a global initiative to simply love doodle dogs of all kinds. Last year, there were official meetups in 75 cities from Omaha to New York to Melbourne, Australia, and the day's hashtag, #internationaldoodledogday, was used over 12,000 times.
"It's one day where everyone gets together and meets up with other doodle owners," North said. "This is a huge event that people love to partake in. We make all kinds of special gear."
For local dog lovers wanting to get their fix, Ripley & Rue products are carried at Made in Omaha and The Green Spot and Long Dog Fat Cat.
The team is also working on corporate dog bandanas for organizations such as Flywheel, where North's husband works (and Rue won Office Dog of the Year) and Google, where pups are affectionately named "Dooglers."
North hopes projects of this size will attract the eyes of pet subscription boxes and national retailers.
Caley Maszk has been working with North since October 2019, shouldering lead production on bandanas to personalize and package each canine neck scarf.
"Jeannie is the best boss anybody could ask for," Maszk said. "She worked alone for three years, but she welcomes ideas and makes us all feel a part of the business. I see my ideas come into play, and I feel like a part of the company. Like, what can you love more? It's being creative for dogs. It's a dream."
Visit ripleyandrue.com for more information.