by Andrew Garda
Since New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy clarified that pet-grooming businesses were essential businesses on April 27, Montclair groomers have had their hands full of dog fluff.
“Through the entire closure I had people trying to bribe me to open the shop just to sneak their dog in because they don’t want their dog getting matted and having to get shaved down,” said Collette Finn, owner of Montclair Pet Grooming, who has a waiting list of two weeks already.
For Studio Groomers owner Greg Siner, many of his customers were anxious to come back after trying their hand at grooming their own dogs and finding out it’s not quite as easy as they thought.
“That’s exactly what’s happening,” he said. “They tried to do it at home and you know, they don’t have the equipment or the knowledge or whatnot. Usually, you know, they’re making a bigger mess than it would be to just let it go and let us do what we can.”
Finn had the same experience.
“They do the best they can, obviously,” she said. “I had one customer tell me that she didn’t appreciate me as much before the shutdown and she was greatly sorry, and she left me a very generous tip. Because during this time she tried to groom her dog. And her dog is amazing, she’s such a well-behaved dog. It’s just she’s wiggily and [the customer] was petrified that she was going to injure her own dog, so after that she’s like ‘I definitely took for granted how hard your job actually is.’”
One of the reasons groomers have been given the green light to open up while nail salons, barbers and beauty parlors have not is the ability of groomers to ply their trade while maintaining social distancing from the pets’ owners.
Both Montclair Pet Grooming and Studio Groomers ask their customers to remain outside, calling when they either pull up to the curb or otherwise arrive with their pets outside the storefront for both delivery and pickup. And they pay by credit card. Dogs are kept in separate cages, the groomers wear masks and gloves, and the dogs go right in the tub immediately.
It isn’t always smooth, but it works.
“Sometimes it’s hard. [You] tell customers to call us when [they’re] outside and the next thing you know you turn around and they’re trying to get in the door,” Siner said. “In general, it’s all working out, though.”
Siner said he had been following how other states were handling pet grooming.
And the dogs keep coming in. Finn had to catch up on dogs who had appointments before the shutdown, while also adding in new appointments when she could. Siner said while he and his staff open at 8 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday, the end of the day varies based on the work.
“We groom until the last dog is done,” Siner said. “Some days we’re tired, some days we’re not tired. I didn’t get out of here until 7 last night, [but] the day before, I think I was done by 3.”
Both shops are seeing not just a return from their own customer base, but an influx of new people as well. Siner said calling is the best way to make an appointment. Finn said that customers can call the store, but it’s best to also text her at the number listed on the voicemail.
Finn said she calls those who text her back when it’s quieter in the shop after hours.
“It’s just very hectic at the moment,” she said. “But I understand, especially if it’s a new customer and they’ve never met me, they want to speak to someone. I completely understand that.”
At the end of the day, both Finn and Siner say it’s about adjusting to the new normal and helping out the dogs and their owners.
“It’s kind of like going to the supermarket,” Siner said. “One in, one out, mask and gloves and no contact with you. Even though everybody can’t wait to hug and talk about old times, we can’t do that, yet.”