Bark Avenue, Crozet’s First Pet Salon

Patti Siehien

Who knew Crozet needed a pet salon? Patti Siehien did and so she opened one. A registered nurse who changed careers, she’s been in the dog grooming business for five years. This spring, Siehien moved to Crozet from Bedford, where she ran a similar business called The Electric Company that was a grooming salon, art gallery and café. It worked her to exhaustion, she said. The gallery started an “art movement there and then a lot came along with that.” She sold the business but retains ties to Bedford where she has grandchildren. “This is just enough for me,” she said.

“We’ve been very well accepted in Crozet.  Everybody says how happy they are that we’re here.

“I take all the appointments over the phone for myself because I like to know where people are coming from.

“We’re not mass production groomers. We groom no more than five dogs a day. We inspect the dogs and this is a comfortable number to handle.” The salon is staying booked through the week. They are busy, but they still have vacancies.

“Some people do like to watch. We do everything up front in the sunshine. This environment does not scare most dogs. We try not to have more than a couple of dogs in the shop at one time. Our dogs are spoiled. They have a nice quiet environment and they are calmer dogs.

“I’m a perfectionist. My employees realize that. We disinfect between every dog. We do immediate flea baths. I’ve had to turn away dogs that I thought were a risk for giving off infections or fleas.

“Our clientele takes good care of its dogs. About 50 percent of the dogs we do are rescue dogs. Somebody has given these dogs another chance.”

The grooming station.

She said the most common breed they have seen over the summer is Golden Retrievers, who need summer cuts to cope with heat. They also take care of a lot of poodles as well as mixed breeds Siehien calls ‘designer dogs.’ “Some are smart. Some are gentle giants. Some are high maintenance.”

“When I first got here I said, ‘Where are all the Yorkies?” a dog that needs grooming and was popular in Bedford.

“We do a lot of Australian Shepherds and farm dogs. It helps keep things clean at home because the dogs aren’t picking up so much dirt in their coats.

“Getting bit is part of the job,” she said. “I watch a lot of Dog Whisperer,” a recently canceled TV show in which animal behaviorist Cesar Millan coaches pet owners on how to improve their pet’s behavior. “A lot of dogs don’t like to be touched,” said Siehien. She’s been bit four times since she opened the shop in May.

“You have to put in the time in a new business. You have to be there. You have to get a business into a flow and things will go in harmony. Once we get there then maybe I’ll get time off. It takes time for people to trust you.”

On weekends Siehien cleans the shop.

“I’ve got top-notch people here. It’s hard to get people who care about what I care about. It’s my reputation that’s on the line.” She has two groomers, Heather Dabney and Michelle Allen, and a bather working with her.

Siehien went through the Pet Smart Training Academy to learn the trade, “but many excellent groomers are just taught by somebody,” she said. “You have to love animals and be creative.”

“I was drawn to Crozet because it’s small town and it’s country. I’m really happy here. I love Crozet. I like how we are situated between cities like Charlottesville and Staunton.”

Her house in Crozet is on a small lot and she has a small vegetable patch on it. Siehien has three dogs herself, two of them rescues.

“I can hear my neighbors and that is different for me. I welcome the growth. It’s so nice for this community. Crozet is amazing.”

One of Siehien's paintings.

She chose the shop because it has a small patch of lawn outside where dogs can do their business before they come in. “There’s a pail there,” she explained. “Most people pick up after themselves.”

Besides dog grooming and bathing, nail trimming, ear cleaning and other hygienic services, the shop also offers the Furminator shampooing process that Siehien said will eliminate 90 percent of the hair dogs shed. “It all comes out on our floor,” she explained. The store also offers an assortment of organic pet supplies.

A potter and a painter, Siehien kept up her art work while she was a nurse and some is displayed in the shop. “I see grooming as a sort of sculptural art. You have to have a good eye to see symmetries.”

She also displays some work by local painter Audra Book. “I love painting dogs because you can capture them. You can feel their name come out of them.”