barkside bistro toronto

Woman in Toronto steps in to help friend's struggling small business

A Toronto pet store has gotten a helping hand in the form of their very own Sunday funnies strip that drops every single week.

Sharin Barber saw her friend Karen Schiavone was struggling to run her two locations of pet store Barkside Bistro after months and months in and out of lockdowns, and decided to use her skills to do what she could to help out.

"It's been extremely tough on her, as with all the protocols concerning COVID you have to work twice as hard to make half the normal amount to make ends meet," Barber tells blogTO.

"Staffing has been difficult and switching from being brick and mortar to mostly online orders has its challenges."

About a month ago, Barber started trying to attract attention to her friend's business the only way she knew how: through her work as a local artist.

"When she found herself without a social media person my friend was at her wits' end, so I offered my services to help out," says Barber. "I know how hard it’s been for her and thought I could make it fun for me as well."

She decided to do a comic about (what else) dogs, specifically the regulars running around at Cherry Beach Dog Park, including her rescue border collie Sullivan.

"All the dogs are regularly walked in this dog park, and are the best of friends," says Barber.

Sullivan's (or Sully's) recurring character pals include Peaches (a mischievous little stinker, literally) and Baby Frank (possibly the tiniest, cutest dog in the whole world). 

It's not just pure cuteness in these Sunday funnies, however; the comics are informative too, educating readers on subjects like heat stress in dogs.

Did you also know, for example, that it's better for your dog's water to be filtered, and kept in a ceramic or stainless steel bowl?

Barkside Bistro's readership is small for now, but it's growing, and the shareability of the cute educational comic has been beneficial to the business.

"It's only been a month but we have added more followers on the social media accounts and we get lots of shares," says Barber.

If you're already a fan of Barber's funnies for Barkside and know a kiddo who loves dogs, she's actually already at work on a board book starring Sullivan and friends.

"I'm in love with the characters and can't see myself stopping anytime soon," says Barber.

Lead photo by

Frances Dyason


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