Date: January 8, 2007
Edition: CTI EDITION1
GOING TO THE DOGS
A former barber has made the transition from people to pets.
- BY WINSLOW MASON JR.
Over the course of her career as a barber, Donna Worstall's customers have gone from two legs to four.
The Bristol resident owns Digger Dogs pet grooming business on Mill Street in the borough. She cuts hair and nails and bathes her four-legged customers. And, she said, she pampers her dogs just like she pampered the men who were her customers when she ran a barber shop from her Bristol Township home.
Instead of keeping her canine customers in cages while they're awaiting service, she said she lets them walk around the shop and play with the other dogs. In fact, she said, many of the dogs have formed friendships and even cliques.
"My dogs look forward to coming to the shop because they know they're going to see friends," she said. "It's just like a regular barber shop. My dogs don't just get groomed. They hang out with each other. They talk to each other. It's fun to watch."
Her 317 Mill St. location is her third. With more than 1,000 customers, she has outgrown two other shops she had in theborough. And she plans to expand.
"The pet grooming industry has been holding steady for the past 10 years," said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the NationalDog Groomers Association of America, a trade group.
He estimated there are between 25,000 and 35,000 dog groomers nationwide. The industry has high turnover because of the back-bending, dog-chasing work involved, he said.
Pet grooming is also an unlicensed profession, he said. To survive, groomers have to be good with animals and provide quality work.
Worstall said she became efficient with scissors and a hair clipper after attending barber school in Philadelphia
She said she learned the business side of grooming while managing her sister's beauty salon in Bristol. There, she helped manage thefinances and schedule customers while cutting hair (mostly for men) at her home.
When her daughter took a job bathing dogs at a local groomer, Worstall said she got the idea of getting into the pet grooming business. She served for a year as an apprentice for a local groomer and attended pet shows to improve her techniques.
"Being a barber definitely was an asset," she said. "Of course, dogsare little more difficult because they don't sit still. But I love towork with them. I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but I wentto barber school instead. As a pet groomer, I can still be close to the animals."
Judy Potter, Worstall's assistant, also runs a hair salon out of her Bristol Township home. She said making the transition from cutting human hair to pet hair can be fun, but she said there's an advantage to working with two-legged customers.
"My customers don't bite," she said with a laugh. "Donna has a gift.The dogs love her."
Jeanette Rawle of Bristol Township praised Worstall's work. Brandy, Rawle's yellow Labrador, has been a customer of Worstall's for five years.
"When we tell Brandy she's going to the beauty parlor to see Donna, she gets so excited. We used to have to sedate her to get her nails done. But she'll sit still for Donna," Rawle said.
Worstall said she's found a way to communicate with the animals just like she'd talk to any other customer.
"I bond with them and ask them how they're doing and what they like," she said. "It's a lot of fun."
Winslow Mason Jr. can be reached at 215-949-4170 or wmason@phillyBurbs.com.
January 8, 2007