Firm takes pet grooming on the move

  • Wednesday, January 7, 2009 2:27pm
  • Business

'Joey' comes out with a new sparkle after groomer Michele Schuman worked her magic.

Buzz. Whir. Snip, snip.

The sounds coming from a driveway in one neighborhood this week could have been mistaken for any typical salon.

Instead, the steady stream of noises came from a white van, and the customer was a 1-year-old Havanese named Joey.

“The whole idea with mobile grooming is to take the stress out of the situation for the pet and the owner,” said Leon Feuerberg, who started a franchise of the Aussie Pet Mobile business at the end of 2005. His branch, Bel-Red, covers 30 zip codes from the southern Bellevue, Newport, Somerset and Lakemont areas up to Bothell and Kenmore at the northern end, west to Madison Park and the Renton end of Lake Washington and east to North Bend.

Employee Michele Schuman was named groomer of the year for the country by the larger corporation. Feuerberg said he attributes that to Schuman’s good relationship and popularity with her clients, 95 percent of whom rebook with her on the spot.

“When you take your pet to any big grooming shop, you don’t see the same groomer,” Feuerberg said. “We get to really know the pets.”

Schuman attributes her success to the way she feels about animals.

“To be a good groomer, you have to love pets,” she said. “Pets can tell if you love them in a genuine way.”

Schuman used to be a graphic designer and switched careers to work for Aussie three years ago.

“It’s like I’ve done it forever. I didn’t realize how much of an animal lover I was until I started.”

Customer Shelli Vlastelica, the owner of Joey the Havanese, said he loved Schuman from the moment they met.

“He was super-attached to Michele,” Vlastelica said. “I really felt like she loves doing this. She loves the dog.”

The family had been taking Joey to a big box grooming store, but it wasn’t up his alley.

“His anxiety was so bad, shaking and whimpering,” she said. “It felt really out of control.” A neighbor referred them to Aussie.

Aussie’s “basic” grooming, which costs $65 to $75 for smaller dogs or $85 to $90 for larger dogs, has 15 steps, and includes cleaning the eyes, ears, trimming nails, a full bath with custom mixed shampoos and a massage in a heated hydrobath. The dogs (and cats) get their fur brushed, cut and fluffed — with a certified pet drier with a long hose and a diffuser. They also offer special services such as the “Furminator,” which removes excess fur. The occasional owner even asks for their dog’s nails to be painted, typically around the holidays, but that’s out of the ordinary.

“We’re not here to do show dogs. Most people just want their pet to be comfortable and happy,” he said.

Some customers have their pets groomed through Aussie weekly and some monthly, but the vast majority use the service every five to six weeks, he said.

“People here in the northwest have become (accustomed) to the customer service at Nordstrom and Costco,” Feuerberg said. “They’re more interested in value than the price and that’s what we’ve tried to do for customer service. Our pets are our customers.”

For more information, call 1-800-Pet-Mobile.

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