Mobile grooming business is booming

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Mar. 11, 2013
Lily Girl looks forward to her bath. Photos by D. Coffey.
Lily Girl looks forward to her bath. Photos by D. Coffey.

When Tracey Deojay knocked on the door of Paul Grenier's home in Moosup, Lily Girl barked a greeting. The Chihuahua-pug mix was saying hello to her personal groomer, a woman who makes the trip to Grenier's home on a regular basis to give the dog a shampoo, cut and blow dry. And Deojay does it all from the comfort of her 16-foot Paws and Klaws mobile, a vehicle she designed specifically for the business.

There is a tub and 55-gallon water tank on board, a moveable grooming station, a vacuum and air blower, a collection of shears, clippers and muzzles, and laundry baskets full of towels. A generator runs it all. The set-up is perfect for Deojay, who has been in the business for nine years. It allows her the flexibility to work around her family's schedule, an opportunity to work with animals, and it's profitable. She currently has a client list of 1,500. There is a two-month waiting list. She has so much work that she is outfitting another vehicle. Her daughter will join her in the business this summer. “I'm busy,” she said.

A business analysis she did on mobile pet grooming services showed that northeastern Connecticut would support the business. It's no wonder. More than $53 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2012, according to the American Pet Products Association. Ten percent of that, or more than $5 billion, was spent on pet services like grooming and boarding.

Deojay first learned about pet grooming while a student at the Killingly Agricultural Center. After a number of jobs that didn't fit her needs, she took a three-month course at the Connecticut K-9 Education Center. Now she travels from Webster, Mass., to Ledyard, Conn., with her office in tow. She can groom an average of 10 dogs a day, but she has gone as high as 19.

There are drawbacks: Some dogs bite. Some cats scratch. Flea baths mean disinfecting the entire van. She has to pay for mileage and maintenance on the “office.” She always has loads of towels to wash and hair to sweep up. She often has to change. “Dogs shake,” she said. “It's okay in the summer when it’s hot, but it's not so great in the winter.”

Lily Girl gets an initial clipping, is put in the tub and shampooed twice. The second shampoo has a cucumber melon scent. She's taken back out, dried off with a high velocity pet dryer (there is no heating element) and then given a final cut with clippers and shears. Her nails are clipped, her tail brushed out, and she is outfitted with a brand new bandana.

When Deojay carries the dog back to Grenier, her tail wags steadily. “It's really convenient,” Grenier said. “And Lily loves it.”

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