Dog groomer moves basement business to full-service salon in Yalesville

WALLINGFORD — What started as a business in her basement in the Fairfield area became a full-service grooming service for Harmarie Lebrón.

The 32-year-old recently opened The Dog Den Grooming Spa at 200 Church St. in Wallingford.

After losing his job at a retail store, Lebrón wanted to find a less expensive way to groom his cocker spaniel, Luna. She invested in some professional grooming equipment and began grooming the dog herself.

“It’s one of those things that it was cost effective to learn how to brush your own dog compared to the struggle of going every three weeks to do it because he had such a thick coat,” added Lebrón.

Luna now runs a professional grooming business, .

“The idea came from my general love for animals. I always had a dog growing up and I wanted it to be a place where I wanted to take my dog,” Lebrón said. “I experienced preparation at different levels from different stores, nothing against anyone, everyone does everything the way that works for them. But for me, it was more like he wanted me to feel at home, but I’m also from New York, so I want that modern, chic, high-end vibe.”

Building your clientele

Lebrón began building his customer base by hanging out at a park or walking his dog. People started to take notice of Lebron’s preparation skills.

“People were asking ‘who’s grooming your dog?’, ‘where do I take her? it looks incredible,’” explained Lebrón. “And I started to build a clientele that way and then it spread by word of mouth. He got to the point where getting ready in his house, even though it was nice and had a cozy atmosphere, wasn’t big enough.”

Before opening his business, Lebrón, who served in the Army for four years, got a job at a grooming salon thanks to the experience he gained from working with his own dog. From that experience, he began to realize the things that he wanted to do differently.

“I said ‘you know what? I don’t want to work for anyone else,’” Lebrón said. “I prefer to do this by myself. And I started to see a lot of things that I’d like to do differently and it’s kind of hard because when you’re not the owner of the business, you can have a say in how things are done, but it’s never going to be the way you would do it yourself. .”

opening a store

After grooming for a while, she realized that it wasn’t fair to her clients or their pets to groom her animals in a small room in her house, so she decided to buy a shop.

Lebrón got a store at 200 Church Street Plaza in the Yalesville section of Wallingford. The place he chose has large windows, which was attractive to Lebrón since it would allow greater transparency with his clients.

“What I love about this is that when I first saw it, all these walls were already built, there were windows everywhere in every room and I love that because it’s a matter of trust,” Lebrón said. “I want the client to be able to trust me and the dog to be able to trust me. And the fact that you can walk in and you can see where the dog is being groomed and you can walk down the little hallway and see the bathroom areas. That was also important to me.”

Lebrón enlisted the help of her boyfriend and her father and the three of them renovated the space on their own. From the floors, tubs, plumbing, logo and paintings of his cocker spaniel that decorate the walls, everything was built to make Lebrón’s dream come true.

Lebrón opened his storefront to the public in October and is now packed every Saturday for the next month and a half.

A hairdresser like no other

He said that one of the most important things people like about his business is not only the quality of the haircuts and mud baths, but also the fact that he is a genuine person who takes the time before each session to connect with each of her furry clients.

“In this industry, having conversations is extremely important,” said Lebrón, who has Italian and Puerto Rican roots and speaks Spanish and English. “One, the person comes with his dog. Your dog doesn’t know you. They are getting a feel for how you interact with their owner and with them. So establishing a base where you guys are well positioned and happy to talk to each other sounds strange, but on a chemical level, of course, it releases pheromones. Dogs realize all that.”

Shannon St. Hilaire of Wallingford decided to try bringing her German Shepherd, Spirit, to Lebron after some recommendations from her friends. She described her experience with The Dog Den as “unbelievable.”

He also appreciates that it is a women-owned business and that Lebrón is a military veteran.

“She, you know, got me right away,” St. Hilaire said. “Spirit was the only dog ​​there, so it was very comforting for him. He did great with her. She’s had some bad grooming experiences before so I won’t be taking it in very often… And she’s a veteran and it’s a woman owned business. So we try to support where we can.”

Lebrón also prides itself on being cage-free, allowing grooming dogs to roam.

“So if the dog comes in and I’m with another dog, he’ll hang out in the same room as me so I can keep an eye on him. I never have them together unsupervised,” she explained.

giving back to the community

Lebrón has also formed a partnership with the Wallingford Animal Shelter at 5 Pent Road.

The shelter normally calls Lebron when one of the shelter dogs needs to be brushed.

“The dogs from the shelter, they come here and they are so happy not to be in their cage and to run,” Lebrón said. “You see them when they come in and they look crazy. And then you fix them and it’s like a completely different dog that goes away and the dog feels better.”

Lebrón said that as his business grows, he hopes to continue giving back to the community. He also hopes to take his business to the “next level” by hiring a team of people who are trained and treat dogs the way they’re supposed to and also potentially open a second location in the community.

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