Ralph holding Frannie
A Man and His Dog
An interview with Ralph Bernstein
Nov 22, 2016

Interview and photos by Seth Jovaag


Meet one of Minnesota’s “50 Over 50” business honorees: At 54, Ralph Bernstein finds himself in a completely new chapter of his life. That’s because, after 25+ years in the financial services industry, he started over—a journey that began with the sudden death of his wife. Looking around at the 600 people who attended her funeral, Ralph began thinking about reprioritizing his life to focus on relationships. When the family’s dog was killed a few months later, Ralph knew the time had come. He left his job. Shortly after, he bought a doggie daycare, in part as a way of giving back to those who had taken such good care of his dog—and of Ralph and his family—after his wife’s death.

Ralph Bernstein at Downtown Dogs


Ralph’s story, as told to SethJovaag, starts with a first date.

When Ralph Bernstein was in his mid-twenties, he went on a first date with a girl named Stephanie. She invited Ralph to the New York opera.

“We went to the opera, we went out to dinner, and we had a great time. And then we were just together.”

Ralph Bernstein at his desk

Love, marriage, and two kids later, Ralph and his family moved to the suburbs of Minneapolis. He kept moving up in the corporate world of the financial services industry.

“I’ve always been sort of an internal entrepreneur at companies, I’ve always been the guy that companies have turned to, to say, ‘Hey, how do we get into this new area of payments, or how do we build our capabilities in this area?’”

Ralph working at his desk

When asked if he liked working in the financial services industry for more than 25 years, Ralph is quick to respond:

“Nope. But I didn’t realize that until Stephanie died. The reason I had been working in the corporate world was largely about financial security. The opportunity to make a decent living and to put enough money aside so that she and I could retire and then go off and do things that people do in retirement. And then one day, that just went away.”

After Stephanie died, Ralph became responsible for dropping off and picking up the family dog at Downtown Dogs. It became the highlight of his day. One day, Ralph asked himself, “If I didn’t do what I was doing, what would I want to do? The answer was I’d love to have a dog daycare business. Not just any one, but I really liked this particular business.”

Frannie supervising Ralph

“Every day is take your dog to work day and that’s a pretty good thing for me.”

Ralph holding Frannie

“Things just happen. Life is fleeting. You think you’re going to spend your whole life with somebody and suddenly that doesn’t happen and they’re gone. You need to be sure the relationships you have and the time you’re spending on those relationships is good time and time well spent.”

Do you know an incredible individual over the age of 50 who is disrupting aging and making an impact in the community? Nominate them for AARP-MN and Pollen’s “50 Over 50” list today at www.50Over50MN.org. Nominations close on May 13, 2017.

Posted by AARP Minnesota on Nov 22, 2016
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