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Missoula pet groomer manages COVID-19 restrictions during busiest season

Missoula pet groomer manages COVID-19 restrictions during busiest season

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Showcase Pet Grooming is a noisy place. Dogs yipping and barking, blow dryers and vacuums whirring, and the phone ringing recently echoed through the small storefront.

Since its reopening just over a month ago, Showcase has received hundreds of calls from pet owners trying to clean the quarantine off their dogs. 

The first few weeks of May, Showcase received on average 100 calls a day. Now it's getting 40 to 50 calls daily, which is still double the amount it got before COVID-19 restrictions shut it down. The business is booked out through the end of July.

Showcase’s owner of more than 12 years, Kathi Kincaid, is happy to be busy. It means her business will make it past the COVID-19 shutdown, but she’s also struggling to make room for all of her customers. The business can only manage about 20 grooms a day, with only three full-time grooming staff and an increase in safety and cleaning procedures. 

“I feel bad that we’re not getting back to our customers as promptly as usual, but we’re all running as fast as we can,” Kincaid said. 

It has also extended its open days to seven a week, with Sundays being self-service grooming only. Self-service grooming used to be a service it provided regularly, but now it’s only by appointment on Sundays.  

After about a month shut down, Showcase reopened April 28. Kincaid said she was notified she could open only two days prior. She had to prepare a comprehensive plan to keep herself, her employees and her clients safe. 

Now she’s allowing only one customer in the lobby at a time, and everyone must wear a mask. Customers leave their pup in a kennel up front and the groomer retrieves it while donning a smock to protect them from any germs left on the dog. Then the dogs are brought to the back to be groomed. Every surface is meticulously sanitized between dogs.

The process has slowed the groomers down, Kincaid said. Without regular self-service dog washing, additional supplies needed to stay sanitary, and loss of time, she’s worried about being able to make a profit. She said the only way Showcase was able to stay afloat so far was through a Paycheck Protection Program loan. 

She’s considering a minimal price increase to make up for the difference, and she’s on the hunt for another groomer so she can get more dogs in each day. She can’t fit all of the hundreds of dogs into her schedule with limited staff, but there’s not a huge pool of skilled dog groomers looking for a job in Missoula. 

One of Kincaid’s full-time groomers, Hannah Kubert, brings her own dog in to work every day. His name is Roxer the Boxer, and he’s the mascot of the business, with his picture painted on the window. Roxer greets every customer who comes in, and Kincaid said he has never had any behavioral issues. 

Kubert grooms around seven dogs a day. She has regulars, dogs who come in for grooming every four to eight weeks. On Saturday, she groomed Bennie, a 2-year-old Cockapoo who’s been coming to her since he was 6 months old. She said dogs like Bennie tend to get accustomed to the routine and are easier to work with. But the COVID-19 shutdowns threw off the routine, and even some of the regular dogs become nervous or confused. 

“A lot of dogs we’re having to reteach how this works, because they went without it for so long that a lot of them forget that this is normal,” Kubert said. 

Despite all of the restrictions and changes, Kincaid is happy to be doing the work she’s doing. She loves the dogs and tries to leave each one with a happy memory, whether it’s treats, tennis balls or cuddles. 

“There’s one dog that’s obsessed with tennis balls, so I always play a little tennis ball with him before he goes.” Kincaid said. “…You know just some good memory among these strange memories of this weird stuff we do helps them to not be afraid to come back the next time.”

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