After obtaining her Ph.D. in visual neuroscience and working in academic research in Texas for four years, Regina Nobles decided to change career paths. Letting her passion lead the way, she switched gears into entrepreneurship and decided to open PG&J’s Dog Park Bar, named after her heeler mix rescues, Paco, Ginnie, and J Roddy. It’s a place to enjoy furry friends and craft beer while giving back to the community. Meet our inspiring new FACE of Louisville, Regina Nobles!
How did you go from working in academic research in Texas to owning a dog park bar in Kentucky?
I’m originally from Kentucky; I grew up in Oldham County. My husband is from Harlan County, and we met in graduate school at the University of Louisville. In 2010, we both graduated with our Ph.D.s — I have a Ph.D. in visual neuroscience, and he has a Ph.D. in microbiology. We both left Louisville and moved to Texas for our post-doctoral research fellowships.
After four years, I decided I didn’t want to do academic research anymore — I wanted to become an entrepreneur. While I was in Austin getting my feet wet in the business world, I started managing massage and facial spas. I had three franchises that I took care of to get some business experience. My husband was searching for a faculty position, and it just so happened that Louisville had an opening, so we ended up moving home. I already knew I wanted to open a dog park bar. I had started my business plan while I was in Austin.
This bar is the first of its kind in Louisville. How did you come up with the concept?
It really started when we were living in Austin. I would always take my dogs out in the morning, and then my husband would take them out in the evening so they could get their proper exercise, but that got exhausting after a while. And sometimes, when you are working all week and you just want to relax, you feel guilty leaving your dog at home. Someone opened a dog park bar down the street from where we were living, and we were there sometimes three or four nights a week. Our dogs got to socialize and get their energy out while it allowed us to just chill and hang out with each other and our friends. It was a great concept.
How does your dog park work?
We have a day pass that’s $10 — and that’s a 24-hour pass, so you can come and go as you please. And if you wanted to come more than a few times, we offer a monthly membership as well as a yearly membership. The fee is actually for the park and for the dog. We don’t charge humans. You can come by and see us even if you don’t have a dog. You’re more than welcome to come to the bar and just hang with the dogs — we just ask that you like them. The fees pay for park upkeep, park supplies, and park monitors. We have bark rangers there to watch the dogs, but we want to stress that we don’t babysit people’s dogs. The expectation is you still keep an eye on your dog.
A portion of your proceeds goes to local nonprofits — how important was that aspect in your business model?
Huge — it’s the whole reason I went into business myself. After being in academic research for several years, I just wanted to work for myself. I wanted to have that control and that social mission behind my decisions and my business model. That was the purpose of going into business for myself — so I could serve my community and give back. The organizations we support (My Dog Eats First, MisPits & Friends Rescue, Kentucky Humane Society, The Arrow Fund, and Dogs Helping Heroes) — they’re special to myself and my managing partner, Julie Christine.
Some of those organizations were trying to find spaces that were free of charge, big enough to host their events and would welcome dogs. They can now host events at PG&J’s, and I’m not going to charge them for the space. My goal was to be able to be a venue — not just for the five organizations we support, but for any type of local organization or rescue that is looking for the space and the platform to help get their mission across. I’d love to offer them space to host events without charging them so they can focus on raising money for their organization.
What are your hours?
We’re open noon to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday. At first, I wasn’t going to open until 2 in the afternoon. But I networked a lot when I first moved back here, and the coffee shops were always so packed. I thought, You know what? These people have dogs! What if we opened a little earlier, offered coffee, and did the whole 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.-type business model? I figured I’m already renting the building, so it would be silly not to use the space.
In the end, we decided not to open quite so early, but we do have coffee. It’s chilly out, and people really like having a hot coffee and hot tea option in addition to alcohol. We’ve incorporated coffee, just not during those typical coffee shop hours.
If people do want to work there like they would at a coffee shop, can they?
Yes! You can set up, and we offer free Wi-Fi, and your dog can roam around. You can sit at the window or one of the tables and keep an eye on your dog playing outside. We also permit bringing in your own food. We do not serve, store, prepare or cook any food, but you’re welcome to bring your own. You can grab some lunch, grab your dog, get out of the house, come in and set up your laptop, then let them run around.
What advice would you give to someone else who may be looking to change career paths?
First, figure out what you’re passionate about, then just go forth. I built my business around my passion: my rescue dogs. They changed my life, and I also appreciate a really good craft beer — so I combined both of my passions and didn’t take “no” for an answer. I was told “no” countless times. I think I went through 12 or 13 banks before I got financing. People weren’t investing in my vision, but I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Every “no” brought me one step closer to “yes.”
RELATED: 5 New Louisville Restaurants to Try
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
There’s one thing my dad would say that stuck with me — basically, if you’re going to do anything, give it 110%. Period.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My dogs, number one. Then my books and my flowers — I love to garden. It’s my therapy.
All photography by Lennie Omalza.
Subscribe to StyleBlueprint for your best “me moment” of the day.