By Laura Kostad
Two years ago, Eric and Jalyn Calaway introduced Tri-Citians to a new way to groom their beloved furry friends: mobile salons offering front door service.
The idea for Mobile Pet Works was born when Eric Calaway had to pick up their own two dogs from the groomer one day.
“We had to schedule three weeks out for the appointment, and when the day came, our schedules were hectic,” Jalyn Calaway said.
“She dropped the dogs off at 10:30 a.m., and I ended up having to rearrange my schedule to pick them up at 3. I thought, ‘This is inconvenient during the week for working people — it took a big chunk out of my day,’ ” Eric Calaway said.
“So, one day, while at the vet, I noticed their mobile vet van and thought, ‘I could build one of those, but for grooming,’ ” he said.
He pitched the idea to his wife, and she agreed to take it on and manage the business.
They started Mobile Pet Works with existing money from other businesses Eric Calaway manages.
The couple purchased their first Dial-a-Ride-style van, with the backup plan of using the vehicle for other business ventures if Mobile Pet Works didn’t pan out.
Eric Calaway gutted everything himself, added water and electricity, and installed everything needed for a pet salon.
By the end of 2015, the Calaways had to acquire another van to accommodate their rapidly growing clientele.
“If booking times get to be more than a few weeks out, it’s time to build another van,” Jalyn Calaway said.
The rig includes special features to make their mobile salons welcoming to all pets.
Its wheelchair lift now assists elderly and disabled pets, as well as their owners, into the van.
Their newest van uses a battery array instead of an onboard diesel generator to power grooming appliances, which makes operations quieter.
Mobile Pet Works maintains a fleet of five vans and employs four full-time groomers, along with a few part-timers, who collectively accommodate appointment times from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days per week.
Jalyn Calaway said some of their groomers will even work outside those hours, by appointment.
“There are other owner-operators in the area that offer this service, but we are the only ones we know of that have a full-scale business and vehicle fleet,” Jalyn Calaway said.
This enables Mobile Pet Works to reduce wait times. “It’s very convenient,” she said.