Oak Harbor’s grooming salon Posh Puppies has grown since it first opened in November last year and is showing no signs of slowing down.
This grooming salon prides itself on being able to provide personable, customizable service, their dog groomers’ years of experience and their friendly, calming atmosphere that’s aimed at putting dogs and their owners at ease.
It looks like their business practices have paid off, as Posh Puppies won two Best of Whidbey 2018 awards, first place for Best Kennel and Best Pet Grooming.
“I love dogs,” owner Laura Thompson said. “I think that the town really needed a place to go where they could get their dog treated well and not like a number, but like a child. These are our babies.”
That’s one thing that makes them stand out from big businesses, she said, and they get great feedback from owners every single day.
The walls of the 2,600-square-foot salon are painted a calming sea foam blue-green color and pictures of happy dogs adorn the walls. All trimming and brushing takes place out in the open, where owners and visitors can see their dogs getting groomed on individual tables.
But first, in the back room of the salon, bathers wash away the stink and grime lingering on their canine charges. Also in the back room is the “doggie daycare” area, where dogs can roam in a penned-off location and socialize with other dogs. When they’re done, all dogs leave the salon with a bow or a bandana — “something cute,” Thompson said.
The salon takes care of up to 40 dogs a day, averaging around 30, she said.
The services they offer include grooming, nail trimming, hair cuts, dog daycare, nail painting and hair coloring. Some dog owners want their dogs dyed crazy colors, like purple or blue or green, Thompson said, and Posh Puppies can oblige with their dog-safe hair coloring products.
For dogs, getting groomed can be a scary and intimidating experience, especially if they’ve never had it done before. But Posh Puppies can set them at ease, Thompson said.
“Some of these dogs can’t get on a table, it makes them too nervous. They have to be held,” she said. “In a big business, they don’t allow that. But here, we can. We can do whatever a dog needs to get it done.”
She said a couple had been in the day before, driving up from Anacortes in desperate hope to get their dog’s nails trimmed after being kicked out of two pet chain businesses because it was too frightened. They were thrilled when Posh Puppies was able to get their dog comfortable enough to trim them safely, Thompson said.
Thompson is no stranger to business ownership, also running a hair salon called Posh Salon in Oak Harbor for the past six years. Thompson had her eye on starting a dog-related business for a while, but waited on the idea in order to purchase the Posh Puppies business from the long-time grooming business, Corinne’s K-9 Cuts, when the owner was finally ready to sell.
Thompson is also the leader of the Oak Harbor 4-H dog club. She brings in the kids to work every now and then, and has the young members groom the dogs, as the regular groomers supervise. It’s a win-win — the 4-H club gets to practice working on animals, and pet owners get a free groom.
Her plans for the near future are to be open seven days a week, add in a cat grooming service on Sundays and eventually hire more groomers and expand their puppy socialization and doggie daycare options.
When they first started out, they had three groomers and two bathers. Today, they have 10 workers in total.
When hiring workers for the salon, she looks for good customer service skills and a personality that will mesh well with the other workers on the team, Thompson said. All the groomers have dog show experience.
“I ended up with the most fabulous people ever,” Thompson said.
“They are so experienced,” she added. “You don’t find that kind of experience just anywhere. I feel so lucky every single day.”
Groomer Reyna Hull-Walton said the best part of working at Posh Puppies is the team.
“We have a really good team of people,” she said. “And I get to be around dogs everyday.” Her favorite dog breed to groom is a shih tzu or a cocker spaniel, she said.
For groomer Brian Black, there’s two great things about working at the salon.
“One is the transformation when you get a dog in and then it’s a complete 180, it looks like a different dog. That’s always fun,” he said. “And second, the connection you get with your customers. “
Dogs have always been a part of Black’s life. He said he’s always owned dogs and was in the 4-H club at a young age, eventually working as professional dog handler and a dog shower.
“We have a lot of years of experience here,” he said. “(Owners) can feel comfortable dropping their dog off with us because of the amount of experience we have.”