Main Street is trading guns and politics for something far less aggressive – a gentle dog.

The Black Dog, founded on Martha’s Vineyard in 1971, is bringing its logo-adorned apparel and home goods to 14 Main St., former site of Plimoth Bay Outfitters, as soon as April. The store will add an internationally known brand to downtown, providing a boost to the retail mix that will likely lure more visitors up from the waterfront.

The company already boasts 28 retail locations from Maine to Florida. It’s had designs on Plymouth for a while, said marketing manager Jessica Fiedler.

“Most of our stores are in seaside resort towns, so given Plymouth’s rich history, proximity to the ocean, and vibrant town center, it is an ideal location,” she said. “We have been looking to expand to Plymouth for some time and are thrilled to finally become a member of your community.”

The space The Black Dog is moving into has been vacant since Plimoth Bay Outfitters closed last year. That store was most recognizable for its many window signs, most of which promoted Donald Trump and gun rights. The address is one of several key empty storefronts along Main and Court streets.

Amy Naples, executive director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, said The Black Dog is a significant addition to Plymouth’s business scene.

“Their arrival signifies more than just a renowned brand; it proclaims a dedication to excellence and community engagement,” Naples said in an email. “Seeing them anchor themselves in our downtown area fills us with anticipation, knowing their presence will invigorate foot traffic and offer both residents and visitors a delightful shopping experience.”

The Black Dog is moving into this space on Main Street, formerly home to Plimoth Bay Outfitters. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

The Black Dog was started by Captain Robert Douglas on Martha’s Vineyard more than a half century ago. He envisioned “a place where Vineyards and visitors could enjoy a good cup of chowder and friendly conversation year-round,” according to the company’s website. Today, the privately held business still sells food in a few locations, but it mostly trades in clothing, home décor, and pet supplies, all of it adorned with that dog silhouette.

A display of mugs in a Black Dog store. Credit: (The Black Dog)

The logo became extra trendy in the 1990s, especially after President Bill Clinton was seen leaving the store with a shopping bag during one of his many stays on the Vineyard. But Clinton also brought some temporary notoriety to the brand when it was reported that he gave Monica Lewinsky two T-shirts, a dress, and a hat that he purchased at The Black Dog. Clinton later confessed to having an affair with Lewinsky during her tenure as a White House intern between 1995 and 1997. In end, the tenuous connection to the scandal only accelerated The Black Dog’s popularity.

As for the original dog’s backstory, Fiedler said, she was a “rescue mutt.” Douglas named her after a pirate character in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic book, “Treasure Island.”

There was no grand marketing scheme behind the business at the time, but in the end, Douglas struck gold.

Mark Pothier can be reached at

Share this story

We believe that journalism as a public service should be free to the community.
That’s why the support of donors like you is critical.

Thank you to our sponsors. Become a sponsor.