I’ve been a Park Slope dog walker for over nine years, ever since I first launched Jason the Dog Walker Co. in 2007, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood. I remember when Video Gallery right off the corner of 7th Ave and 9th Street held on until the last moment as Netflix and Amazon killed the video store, and when Perch had the best brunch on a Saturday morning. Then there are also the staples that could never leave, like Ginger’s Bar and the Community Bookstore. But something else Park Slope can rival with any neighborhood in New York City is its cafes. In my years, I’ve said goodbye to a few, like Tea Lounge, Ozzie’s (in both locations), and the Red Horse Café. Cafés are a vital part of the fabric of a community. It’s not only a place for us to get hyped up on caffeine, whip out our laptops and focus on our work. It’s a place for us to come together—to meet each other and talk, to see art, to listen to poetry and music. And there’s one café that embodies the fabric of this neighborhood like no other, the warmth and diversity that make it home.
It’s reason #74 Why I Love Being a Park Slope Dog Walker: Roots Café.
My good friends, Amanda Neill, co-owner of Roots with her husband Christian, are the nicest people I know! 3 years ago they were kind enough to take us in as famiy and let us use some of their space for staff meetings in the mornings before work. Amanda sat down with me recently and talked about South Slope, Brooklyn, what she loves about it, and her experiences with our dog walker family.
Jason the Dog Walker Co: So how long have you been in Brooklyn?
Amanda Neill: We originally planned on living in NYC one year, but we’re going on 7 this year! Shortly after moving to the city from Nashville, we met and became friends with Jamey Hamm, the founder of Roots Café. Jamey and I were in a band together for a few years and he knew I wanted to own a café one day, so when he sold Roots to move back home to Alabama, he offered us the cafe for a friend rate. It was a long dream come true.
Jason the Dog Walker Co: What do you love about being in South Slope?
Amanda: I love that it feels like a small town where everyone knows each other.
Jason the Dog Walker Co: And how do you like to engage with the local community?
Amanda: I take it very seriously, like it’s my job to make sure everyone who walks through the doors of Roots leaves better than they came ... especially on rainy days, Monday mornings, days when bad news comes ... I try to make sure music is cranked up and people are laughing. I'm not a miracle worker or anything, but I do want to make sure this community feels seen, known, valued, and loved. Life is so short, and I am so grateful to be a key holder of this beautiful café.
Jason the Dog Walker Co: Are you both artists yourselves?
Amanda: I'm a singer/songwriter, and though my husband isn't technically an artist, he is a creator of many things, in a way I've never seen before.
Jason the Dog Walker Co: Do you have any memories with Jason & Co you'd like to share?
Amanda: I have a thousand! One of my first memories of meeting you is seeing you walk in the door to Roots carrying a baby bird in your palm which you'd found, and you wanted to know if we wanted to take care of it & if it could live in the Roots garden. We were flipping burritos at the time, so it just wasn't going to work, but this gives you a glimpse of the pure goodness that is you. You were treating this tiny abandoned bird as though it was your firstborn child!
Your team is also very precious to me. I love them all individually like my grandchildren! A day in the life of Jason & the Dog Walkers being at Roots goes like this: Jason is sitting at one of the tables working on the schedule and playing air guitar licks and laughing hysterically at a dog picture one of his teammates sent him. There are so many dogwalkers (friends), who are all individually wonderful, but I'll describe a few of them. Ty walks in and gives me a kiss on the cheek while I'm steaming milk for a latte. Reggie comes in with a smile saying he tried the grilled cheese for the first time and almost ordered another one because he loved it so much. Saruh orders a special signature burrito, and we talk about music while she waits. Drew walks in pointing and saying, “I love you guys,” and in return he is called a muffin and a doodlebug (even though he's about 7 feet tall). I mean, how could you not love them?! And while I do have the greatest job, they assure me that working with dogs is much better than working with people, but they are wrong because they’re precious and I love working with them!
Guests are always asking who the mob of people are going to the garden (where they make their keys) ... It’s like a secret club or something. We’re grateful to have them as part of the community and in our lives. They make Roots better.