Our Salty Dog – Plus A Cool Business to Study

My family dressed our dog up as “Jake” from the Salty Dog for Halloween:

Salty Sadie

These pictures are of Sadie, the puppy who joined our family last year. She’s an awesome dog and has become my best buddy. We run together. We hike together. We sprint together. We also take naps together. Back to her Halloween costume…

For the last 10 years, we’ve vacationed on Hilton Head Island for spring break. One of the big touristy things on the island is the Salty Dog complex in the Sea Pines plantation. (They have the best ice cream on the island) This business started out as one restaurant and has blossomed into…

  • 7 Restaurants/Ice Cream Shops in several states
  • Multiple retail outlets in several states selling tens of thousands of shirts/sweatshirts and other Salty Dog merchandise
  • South Beach Inn and Vacation Rentals
  • Cruises & Entertainment Services
  • And more…

Each year, we get new Salty Dog T-shirts. Between my family members, we probably have a minimum of 20 of these shirts in our house right now.

This entire business was built around a story,  “The Legend of The Salty Dog!”

“In a fishing village at South Beach lived John Braddocks and his dog Jake. John earned his living as a fisherman. Jake shared his love of the sea. Early one Friday morning, John powered up their 36 foot fishing vessel and headed for the deep blue sea.

It was a great day for fishing. The fish were practically jumping in the boat. Suddenly, the sky began to darken and the wind whipped to 60 knots. Then, out of nowhere, the Salty Dog was slammed by a 20 foot rogue wave. Jake dug his paws into the deck and tried to fend off the storm with his mightiest growl, but it was too late… the next 20 footer engulfed the small craft. Jake and John were tossed into the raging sea.

The man began to lose hope, but – so the story goes – Jake headed west. Jake swam for 3 days and 3 nights with the man holding fast to his collar.

No one knows how Jake could have known the way back to his home port. The townspeople built a gathering place in the village and named it The Salty Dog Cafe – in honor of Jake’s heroic feat. Portraits of Jake wearing his yellow sou’wester hat adorn the walls. His place in nautical history is assured.”

The dog (Jake) who saved John Braddocks is a Flat-Coated Retriever. We never knew the breed of the dog in the story until this past spring. We have Salty Dog bumper stickers, t-shirts, and sweatshirts – all featuring a Flat Coated Retriever… our dog!

Salty Dog Shirt

The crazy part of the story is our dog absolutely loves to swim. She has become our unofficial lifeguard and will actually try to pull us from the water if we go under. You can see a short video her in action in this post I wrote over the summer about buying a vacation home. She really does try to rescue us just like in the legend!

This just makes me laugh every time I think about it.

I guess image advertising does work!

From a business/investing point of view, this business is worth studing. The “legend of the Salty Dog” has generated millions of dollars for this little business. One simple story combined with cool merchandise = a very profitable business.

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