SEATTLE – A newly opened store catering to very pampered dogs, especially female dogs, is getting more than questioning looks for its name, High Maintenance Bitch.
The third word in the sign is widely visible at North 45th Street and Wallingford Avenue North, one of the main intersections in the Wallingford neighborhood business west of Interstate 5 and north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
"I am probably the most progressive liberal person in the world and I am personally offended by the sign," said Janet Stillman, executive director of the Wallingford Neighborhood Office. "It's so blatant and so in your face."
The sign is the issue more than products such as Gel-ous Bitch bath gel and Street Walker paw cleanser, said Kara Ceriello, co-president of the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce.
Ceriello said she supports the store but has heard complaints from about a dozen people.
"It is going to be a hot issue again when we get to our Wallingford Kiddie Parade and Street Fair," she said.
Stillman said the sign could wreck family photographs of the parade, scheduled for July 7.
"Walk by there with your 5-year-old and try to explain why that sign is there. Half of the sign is made up of the word 'bitch."'
Making no apologies, co-founder Lori Pacchiano, 36, said she planned to meet with the chamber Thursday. Meanwhile, she and her brother, Ryan Pacchiano, 27, hope to made the business name as commonplace in shopping areas as Victoria's Secret.
Over the next three years they hope to open 10 stores at a cost of about $200,000 each.
"Our company is probably the most high-end pet brand in the world," Pacchiano said. "We want to be known for growing from Seattle."
In the process, she said, one of her goals is to reclaim the word in its original meaning, a female dog, as opposed to a derogatory term for a woman.
"Our store is a dog store, but the concept and philosophy is directed specifically toward women," she said.
Inspired by Lola, Lori's Boston terrier, the brother-sister team started making pet feather boas in their grandmother's north end garage five years ago. Today, the brand is sold internationally and the products are included in celebrity gift baskets at the Golden Globe Awards.
In January the boutique, owned by Jean Powell, was moved to Wallingford from Lynnwood, a suburb north of the city. The Pacchianos also retracted trademark licensing agreements and closed shops in Poulsbo, a town on the Kitsap Peninsula across Puget Sound, and in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
A few people complained about the store in Poulsbo, but there wasn't a "huge public outcry," said Stuart Leidner, executive director of the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce.
The Wallingford store displays photos of star customers such as Barbara Walters and Debra Messing. The products are made by Puget Sound-area manufacturers and touted as "human food grade" quality.
To ban the sign would be a violation of free speech, said Alan Justad, spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Development.
Four other companies in the state also use the word in their names, including Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen LLC, according to the secretary of state's corporations database.