DALTON – Stephanie Hughes and Kim Walters, sisters and business partners, have a routine before they start another day of commerce at Lucky Paws Grooming. After unlocking the front door and turning on the lights, they place bags of potato chips, pretzels, cookies, crackers, candy and other snacks in various places around the shop inside 107 W. Main St. The food is for the staff, not the customers and not their dogs.
This staging of edibles is necessary for the pair to get through the next seven hours.
“You’re on your feet all day,” Hughes said on a recent morning, about 15 minutes before the first customer was expected. “There’s no stopping. You don’t get a lunch. You don’t sit down.”
Lucky Paws Grooming opened in September 2014. A sign posted in one of the front windows lists the days of operation as Tuesday to Saturday but the two groomers have been working on Mondays lately.
“We’re very busy,” Hughes said. “Business is great.”
“People tell us we’re worse to get in to see than an appointment with their doctor,” Walters said. “But there are only so many dogs we can see in a day. We don’t want to sacrifice our quality.”
Hughes had worked as a groomer at PetSmart and later groomed dogs for an independent shop. Walters, a former hairdresser, learned how to groom dogs when she began assisting her sister.
“We just figured we’d had enough of working for someone else,” Hughes recalled. “We were going to try this. We went out on a whim.”
They decided to locate the shop in their hometown.
Groomers are not licensed by the state to practice their trade, like barbers and hairstylists, but the sisters said the marketplace quickly eliminates most of the inept practitioners. Bad groomers get no repeat customers.
Hughes and Walters said word-of-mouth was responsible for most of the growth of their business. Admiring the results of a grooming job, dog owners will ask other dog owners where their animal was groomed.
“We’re big on that, the personal recommendations,” Hughes said. “We’d rather have our work speak for us.”
The shop offers a number of canine services, including full grooming, bathing, nail clipping, brushing of teeth, and cleaning of ears. Grooming is the most common type of service provided, according to the owners.
Appointments are required for all services, except nails, where walk-ins are accepted.
Rates depend on the size, breed and condition of the dog.
“A little chihuahua could be $20” Walters said. “But a big German shepherd blowout could be $40 or $45. And then a Newfie could be $120.”
Walters handles the store’s paperwork but the sisters split the grooming duties down the middle. Both can perform any service on all breeds, though Walters prefers to work on larger dogs and Hughes is fine with the smaller animals. Both have been bitten and nipped, many times, by canines large and small.
“I picked a dog up once and it was attached to my finger,” Hughes said. “Kim had to literally detach it. He bit hard and just held on.”
Made cautious by past biting incidents, some grooming chains and independent shops have blanket prohibitions against working on certain breeds. Lucky Paws Grooming accepts all dogs. The shop does not have any cages. Owners drop their animals for an appointment, leave, and then return after the services have been rendered.
This means there are, at most, two dogs in the shop. The owners believe this creates a relaxed atmosphere compared to other grooming parlors, where caged dogs awaiting their treatments can make the store sound more like a kennel.
“We don’t just slap a muzzle on them,” Hughes said. “We go slow and steady. If they have to hang out, we have an area where they can play or get calmed down.”
Michelle, a younger sibling of the owners, volunteers her time at the shop. She performs various duties, and sometimes lends a hand with larger breeds.
“When we had a Great Dane in here, he had to have help to get him in the tub,” Walters said.
Four years ago, as the sisters prepared to open Lucky Paws Grooming, some friends warned them against going into business together. There were predictions the two would bicker constantly. Instead, they found they were usually too busy to fight.
“Once in a while, we’ll just yell and argue and get it over with,” Walters said.
“We’re on the same page about running this place,” Hughes said. “We always help each other out.”
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