By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — When Stephanie Goldstein opened her Upper West Side boutique last year, she knew her dog Scout would be her constant companion in the shop.
What she didn't count on was that the black, brown and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would also become the model for one of her top-selling products.
Goldstein, 35, owns Stoopher & Boots, which sells handmade gifts, toys, clothing and jewelry. She lives around the corner from the shop, which is on Amsterdam between West 78th and 79th streets, and brings Scout to work with her every day.
His affectionate demeanor — which includes a lot of licking — has won him many fans among neighborhood kids, who've made a habit of visiting Scout on their way home from school.
"I knew he was good with kids, but I didn't know how good he would be," Goldstein said. "Now people come in just for him. He's a draw."
Thursday afternoon was no exception. As 3 p.m. rolled around, a stream of students from nearby I.S. 245, the Computer School, flocked to the boutique to visit their favorite pooch.
Olive Wexler, a 12-year-old seventh grader, said she likes the friendly vibe at Stoopher & Boots so much that she often eats lunch at the store. Scout "plays a big part" in the store's appeal, she said.
"It's a cute thing to have a dog running up and licking your face when you walk into a store," Wexler said.
Nicole Koch said her 3-year-old twins Hazel and Pearl routinely beg her to visit Scout, whom they call "Scout Scout," Koch said. "If it was up to them, we'd stop here every day," Koch said.
Now customers can walk away with their own version of Scout — a $26 plush toy called Wee Scout. The toy is handcrafted by Cindi Miller Herleman, a Colorado artist whose toys are sold at Stoopher & Boots.
After months of selling Herleman's stuffed animal raccoons and other creations, Goldstein asked the artist to make a plush toy version of Scout. The Wee Scout was an instant hit, Goldstein said, and a popular item on the store's tooth fairy registry.
Olive Grace Michel, 12, said she's dying to get a Wee Scout. "It's cute, it's fluffly, and it reminds me of Scout - he's near and dear to my heart," Michel said. "He licks people a lot, and you can call him Mushy Mush and he won't get mad."
Goldstein said Scout has played an unexpected role in helping her make Stoopher & Boots into a friendly store where customers linger to chat.
"I wanted it to feel like you're in somebody's living room, but it's exceeded my expectations in that sense," Goldstein said. "Scout has contributed to that community feel, because it's become a place to stop and say hi."