Mobile Pet Works provides front-door grooming service
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.
Jalyn Calaway said many customers coordinate with neighbors to bring Mobile Pet Works to their neighborhood to preen their pets so they can do all their pets in one day. It’s great for them and for the business, the Calaways said.
Often, pet owners will take advantage of the appointment time to run errands.
“Some clients even have us meet them at their workplace, and some businesses will do pet spa days where multiple employees bring their pets in to be groomed by us,” Jalyn Calaway said.
It’s what has enabled Mobile Pet Works to branch out to Walla Walla and Connell, where grooming options are more limited.
If the business can get enough appointments lined up for a day, they’ll make the drive.
“Driving cross-town is great advertising,” Jalyn Calaway said.
All vans are fully wrapped, highly visible and include contact information. “A lot of new customers simply see us in their neighborhood or driving around town,” she said.
The Calaways estimate they have about 500 clients, and the list is growing.
“We book new ones every day. We get about nine to 10 rebooks or new clients daily,” Jalyn Calaway said.
Sandra King, a customer since September 2016, learned about Mobile Pet Works via The Giant Nickel classifieds.
Her elderly Shih Tzu poodle, Chappie, had not been groomed in years, and due to bad previous experiences with other groomers, King was concerned about leaving the dog alone.
“It really worked out nice for us,” said King, who said one of the best parts of the service is the Calaways’ willingness to allow pet owners into the vans to watch and comfort their pets.
It’s great for pets who suffer from anxiety, she said.
Mobile Pet Works also never cages animals.
King and her husband recently rescued a Shih Tzu named Hazel and were grateful for the conscientious, caring service from Mobile Pet Works groomer, Kathleen Hankel.
“She was very sensitive to Hazel’s needs and wanted to make sure she was comfortable and established a good relationship with her. She recommended not doing a bath at first, so as not to traumatize her. She’s very gentle,” King said.
“We will never have anyone else do our grooming, even if we get a new dog. I think that’s the way I’ll go from now on,” she said.
Mobile Pet Works offers two main service packages: full-service groom, which includes a haircut, and full-service bath, which doesn’t include a cut.
Both packages include a nail trim, gland expression and teeth brushing.
The cost for small animals runs $60 to $70, and for extra large dogs, it ranges from $100 to $120. Prices vary based on a pet’s willingness to cooperate and the amount of matting present in the hair — two factors that add to the amount of time it takes to complete a grooming.
“Dogs with long, curly hair should be groomed every four to six weeks to avoid matting,” said Courtney Williams, one of Mobile Pet Works’ groomers, who has been in the industry for four years.
As the Calaways’ customer base continues to grow, the owners said they hope to branch out to more areas throughout the Columbia Basin, adding more equipment and groomers along the way.