Small business creativity is alive and well on the high plains

Jan 31, 2014

Dog grooming hits the road

City dwellers take for granted easy access to services. With strip malls in urban areas sprouting like weeds in a wet summer, finding a groomer and pet care is as easy as taking a drive around a section is for me. During that four-mile drive in a city, people have to choose which business to support. In small prairie towns on two-lane highways where customers are in short supply, it requires ingenuity to figure out how to meet people’s needs and make a buck at the same time.

When we first moved to a small town bordering Highway 9, I planned to drive our shih tzu- mix beast to his regular hair care professional 55 miles away. That wasn’t a terrible distance because the kind professional understood Dudley’s issues about having his feet touched, his mouth shaved, and his ears cleaned, but it was a long drive in bad weather.  If you lose your appointment at  a good groomer, you wait until your next appointment comes up.  As weather advisories began appearing on the radar, my concern prompted me to explore what was available in my new home town before I had to deal with a dog with dreadlocks.

My investigation revealed an inventive neighbor in a nearby community. A dog lover devised a mobile grooming palace using an old delivery vehicle—the kind with a passenger door like a school bus for easy entry. Inside were lighting, a water supply and large tub for bathing pets, a grooming table, generator-driven blow dryers, shears and clippers, as well as a high tech nail file. 

You make your appointment, she shows up in your drive, picks up your furry dog, and returns him in less than two hours freshly bathed and sleekly groomed. I expected to continue to drive to my distant groomer in rain, snow, and ice or suffer through Dudley’s knots and tangles when we missed an appointment. That is—until word of mouth clued me into this gypsy-wagon inspired business. 

This specialist travels to each small town in our region at least once a month, making sure rural pets look every bit as spiffy as any big city dog. She drives several times a month to larger towns like Norton and only once every six weeks or so to smaller communities.  She also grooms out of her home and offers boarding services for folks who can’t travel with their pets. By providing dependable multiple services, her business has to thrive.

Obviously, when someone parks a big vehicle bearing the Groomingdale’s sign in your village driveway, there is no privacy about your pet’s appearance.  “Saw the dog lady at your house today,” comments everyone you see.  It’s embarrassing to admit you can’t shear your own pet.  It’s true, I’m afraid I’ll hurt Cuddly Dudley while trimming around his mouth, eyes, ears, and . . . the other end. 

Another factor that keeps the groomer’s name on speed dial revolves around  the fact that friends  and family accused me of using a blender to cut our golden retriever’s hair each summer when he was still alive. Even Tucker was ashamed to reveal himself in public until his razor burn healed and his hair grew enough to hide the bald spots.

As long as this clever business woman is willing to drive to my house and do a good job bathing and shaving our dog at a reasonable price, she’ll have our business. I’m sure Dudley’s grateful too.