February 2009

Groomingdales: Caring for our Creatures

Author: Ann DeMart

Jen and Jeff Prekop, the owners of Groomingdales pet grooming, share a love of animals, from pampered pets to feral cats and humane society residents. “I’ve been involved in animal rights and rescue for years and years,” said Jen, who is a member of PETA and a vegetarian (and struggling vegan). “All of our pets are rescues. We have two cats and we just rescued a dog—a Sheba Inu.” Those are some lucky critters, if the attention lavished on Groomingdales’ clients is any indication.

During a recent visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Jen and Jeff as well as groomer Tracie Anderson and several distinctive Groomingdales clients and pets: Alex and Nell, two gorgeous white standard poodles from Canada; Lizzie a sweet little Maltese, and Prince, Tracie’s adorable and attentive Pomeranian. All were having a great day at the beauty shop.

The Prekops took over Groomingdales (a great name, for sure) last spring from former owner, Irene Gonzales, who is still very involved. “We always wanted to work with animals, and we knew we would. So when we had the opportunity to take over the shop, we jumped on it,” said Jen. “It’s been truly awesome. We’ve established a pattern and rhythm.” Jen lends her expertise and education in business and entrepreneurship to Groomingdales; Jeff is now a groomer.

During our conversation, Jeff was performing his artistry on Lizzie, who was getting prettier by the minute. “I learned so much from Irene and Tracie; both of them have been grooming for about 18 years,” Jeff said. “As with any passion you have, if you want to do it, you get excited about it and go from there.” He added, “It’s definitely an interesting and fun challenge, learning to work with a client who wants to move around.”

Tracie’s credentials are as impeccable as her work. She grooms for the International Exhibition of Pure Breed Dogs on Hilton Head, graduated from the National Academy of Animal Arts in Kentucky and worked as a veterinary technician. “I loved it. We were trained in preventive medicine and learned to recognize certain worms, bugs, hot spots and what’s causing them.” She also noted the credentials of others. “Irene went to the academy in New Jersey. Ashley Rooker has been grooming for years. All of us attend three continuing education classes a year and are members of the National Dog Groomers Association of America,” she said.

Groomingdales’ four groomers and two full-time bathing technicians offer services from clips and baths to nails, teeth brushing and special treatments and products, including oatmeal soap and bubble bath paw treatment, which keeps dogs from chewing their feet. They have walk-in clients for trimming and filing nails, when visitors want to keep their pets from scratching the floors. They’ll even paint nails and do little hair dying (pet-safe, of course!), and provide boarding and daycare specifically for clients.

Tracie, who has a penchant for poodles, works on every standard poodle that comes in. “Some owners know exactly what they want, but many let me do what I want on the first visit,” she said. “There are probably 15 different cuts you can give a poodle. We give dogs that are two breeds the ‘Personality Clip.’ We look at the two breeds and come up with a creative clip that the owner and the dog are comfortable with,” she said. “A big part of being a groomer is the client communication and figuring out what they want. We keep extensive notes on each client, and owners can always call and change their preferences.” Tracie grooms cats, too, an occupation that certainly must have a special place in heaven. She said she can almost always brush out a cat’s mats, but keeps a close eye and ear to tenderness.

At Groomingdales, the safety and comfort of the animal is the major concern. Animals are never sedated and are treated with exceptional loving care. If an animal is uncomfortable or tender while being brushed, it probably needs to be groomed more often. The staff is happy to teach people brushing techniques and offer tips and pamphlets on special care. Their work is certainly respected; clients who have visited from around North America bring their pets back to Groomingdales. Alex and Nell, the spectacular poodles, are from Canada. Other clients visit from everywhere from Beaufort and North Carolina to California.

The magic that the Groomingdales team works on their clients is rivaled only by their volunteer efforts for animal rights and rescue.
Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of the local Humane Association, is particularly appreciative of the Prekop’s efforts in animal rescue. “We’re thrilled that they’re involved in our charity, she said. “They’re very talented and extremely generous.” The couple’s efforts range from organizational initiatives to grooming animals in the shelter, greatly increasing their changes for adoption.

“We work hard and play hard,” said Jen, who read Edgar Allen Poe to boarders on Halloween. Groomingdales’ photo albums are both hilarious and impressive. Costumes, celebrity canines and kitties vie for attention. Darien the Maltese is in the Spiegel catalogue. Scarlet the poodle, a natural redhead by the way, poses next to a Louis Vuitton bag.

“We always knew we would work with animals in some way. It was so meant to be,” Jen said. “It’s funny how life moves to put you in the right situation at the right time.” The Prekops met while doing dinner theater a number of years ago; neither of them had ever been involved in one before, although Jeff was a working actor. Jen, however, did it on a dare. They discovered each other and their shared passion for animals. “Serendipity. I love that word.”

At that point, it was time to say goodbye to lovable Prince the Pomeranian. Nell, who was resplendent in her new do, was greeting arriving clients at the door. Sam the Shih Tzu and Princess, an apricot toy poodle strolled in. Lucky dogs.

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