A love of dogs led three local women to open a new business in downtown Olyphant aimed at pampering man’s best friend.
Owners Lisa Jopling, Jill Slomian and Kate McDonnell pooled their extensive experience to open their business, Hair of the Dog Groomers, 221 Lackawanna Ave., earlier this fall.
Slomian, 51, Carbondale, began her career as a groomer and trainer 30 years ago. After being surrounded by animals for most of her life, Slomain wanted to work with them.
“I read an article about a groomer in the paper one day, and said, ‘OK, that’s it,’ and started researching grooming schools,” she said.
She attended the New York School of Dog Grooming and worked in New York for a period of time. She returned to Northeast Pennsylvania where she worked in corporate shops and private shops before joining Jopling and McDonnell.
Before entering the business, McDonnell, who has four and a half years of experience, transitioned from working in the restaurant industry to being a stay-at-home mom. Once her daughter started school, McDonnell, 37, Olyphant, longed for something to fill her days.
“I did some grooming work at the racetrack with the horses, and I’ve always loved dogs,” said McDonnell. “It is high stress, but you’re helping these animals.”
Jopling, with three and a half years of experience, started grooming a little later than her business partners, after deepening her love of dogs through fostering.
Jopling, 54, Old Forge, and her husband, Jim Jopling, began fostering dogs eight years ago as a way to cope with the passing of a family pet. Since then, Jopling estimates she and her husband have fostered between 50 and 60 dogs. When she tired of the monotony of a corporate office setting, Jopling left to pursue her passion.
“I said to myself, what can I do that’s going to bring me closer to what I love,” she said. “So I got a job as a bather.”
Hair of the Dog offer a variety of services. For all dogs, they offer baths, nail clipping and filing, brushing and ear cleaning. For dogs with longer coats, they offer full-body haircuts, trims and de-shedding packages. They use an array of shampoos and conditioners for dogs with different skin conditions, including one for dogs with black coats that keeps their fur shiny and vibrant.
“It’s really about assessing each dog’s individual needs,” said McDonnell.
Hair of the Dog is also American Kennel Club Safety certified, one of the only AKC certified shops in the area.
The easiest part for Jopling, Slomain and McDonnell was coming together to start the business. While all three described their experience as “fate,” opening a business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic made their start up slightly more difficult than anticipated.
“Everything took longer than it normally would,” Jopling said. “Offices weren’t staffed, it was harder to get paperwork through and questions answered.”
Even though starting their business in a pandemic was not impossible, the three still felt uncertain.
“We were scared people weren’t spending their money,” she said. “We wondered if we had the money, but we decided that we had to do it not only for our own goals, but for the dogs.”
Even with the recent drastic spike in COVID-19 cases, Jopling, Slomain and McDonnell are not concerned about shutting down again and, if a shut down happens, they are hoping to be labeled essential. Hair of the Dog plans to maintain safety precautions in order to keep customers – dogs and human alike — safe.
“It’s not like a human,” Slomain said. “If you go six months without a haircut, you still take care of yourself. With a lot of these dogs, there’s no one at home to perform the services they need to keep them healthy; it becomes a health issue, not just vanity.”
Grooming health issues include matting, when the hair forms an uncomfortable pelt on the dog’s skin, as well as overgrown nails that can curl into the pads of dogs’ feet.
“None of it is neglect,” McDonnell explained. “They [dog owners] just can’t get it done.”
Jopling, Slomain and McDonnell hope to ensure that Hair of the Dog is a welcoming and safe environment regardless of the pandemic. Jopling expressed that many of their clients have followed the three of them from previous grooming jobs and appreciate the calm and happy vibe of Hair of the Dog.
“We want people to come in and feel welcome,” says Jopling.
Hair of the Dog is open Monday through Saturday by appointment only by calling 570-382-8959.