2018-02-14 / Local News

Haddonfield boutique shop owner’s life revolves around his Morkies

MEET BRUCE EPSTEIN…
By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

FAMILY: Dog children Kobi & Kai, nephew Mitchell (Jennifer) Kay and their children Brynna and Mattson

AGE: 57

HOMETOWN: Voorhees

FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITH DOGS: Dancing to Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand, shopping and road tripping

When Bruce Epstein moved back to South Jersey in 2014 after a stint living as a retiree in Miami, he was ready to settle down.

Not long after, Kobi and Kai entered his life. In fact the Morkies—born on Christmas day in 2015—became the center of his universe.

A longtime decorator with Atlas Interior Home Fashions, Epstein laid low for the first year in the life of the well-behaved and adorable six-pound pets, which are a designer cross between purebred Yorkshire and Maltese terriers.

“It’s like having twins. When one gets sick, the other one does too,” explained Epstein, a Philadelphia native. “I wanted to give them all the attention they deserve.”

When he and a partner opened “Just Bella,” a boutique selling accessories in the heart of Haddonfield, last March, they were ready for a change in tempo. And by all accounts, the customer service business has suited both canines and humans involved.

The petite, well-appointed shop (“It is literally the same size as my closet,” said Epstein) sells designer handbags from the likes of MZ Wallace, Sondra Roberts, Vera Bradley, as well as jewelry. Just Bella will be a featured store during Haddonfield Uncorked, featuring samples from South Jersey wineries 1-4 p.m. Feb. 24.

Kobi and Kai, who have been trained to sit on a pad by the street-front window, are perfect window dressing to help bring in street traffic on the days they visit.

“They are happy to be there and greet everybody who walks in the door and then lay back down again,” said Epstein. “Everybody who meets them falls in love with them.”

Testament to that is Kobi and Kai’s Facebook page, which has some 300 followers.

Given the dogs’ place in Epstein’s heart, it may be no wonder that the devoted owner holds lavish affairs to mark the dogs’ birthdays. The first one Epstein threw was a catered party for them at Dino’s Backstage, a glamorous 1940s-style supper club in Glenside, PA, owned by friends. Instead of gifts, revelers were encouraged to make donations to the Voorhees Animal Orphanage. Kobi and Kai enjoyed the spotlight, sporting several changes of clothing and custom party hats. The featured drink was a Kobi & Kai Cosmo.

The second birthday party was even more lavish. Held in January at the Chop House in Gibbsboro, the event featured a Morkie Mojito. Kobi and Kai wore matching outfits: They entered in gray coats with matching bows and switched to white for most of the affair, finally changing into a pink and black plaid number for the candle lighting ceremony. Once again, revelers made donations to help the animal orphanage.

Epstein is already thinking big for the third birthday. And it may come early, such as Christmas in July. He is contemplating a grander gala affair that raises the ante on both the celebration factor as well as the fundraising.

“People ask me ‘why?’ but I say ‘why not?’ It’s something fun,” said Epstein. “I do like keeping the economy going and having a fun party for my dogs that does something good for other animals.”

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