By Jen Phillips April
“We focus on relationships,” says Jackie Boulton, co-owner of Calgary’s Mucky Pups.
For 24 years, along with her sister Debbie Cameron, they have welcomed dogs and their human owners into their dog grooming salon.
“We have one of the longest–running and most high–end salons in Calgary,” says Jackie. “We’re known for our customer service. We feel you can be a great groomer and be competitive in pricing, but you have to set yourself apart somehow and we do that with our customer service. There’s not a lot of person–to–person contact in today’s world so we focus on that.”
Focusing on those relationships has paid off in a loyal clientele.
“I don’t feel like it’s rocket science, but we’re doing something right because we’re thriving,” says Jackie.
“We do a lot of things that are frowned upon in the industry. For example, every year in the month of December we do a weekly drawing for a large gift basket. We don’t skimp on it. It includes dog gifts, human gifts, and a gift certificate. In fact, we spend of minimum of $500 each in customer appreciation gifts. Sometimes, other groomers think that’s a lot, but we don’t.
“We also offer senior discounts any day of the week and we offer a 10% discount if someone brings in two dogs from the same household at the same time.
“When we started, we were happy with six dogs a day. We put every penny we made back into the business. Now, we want to be able to pay it forward. We don’t have the philosophy of getting rich. We pay our groomers well, so they feel appreciated. We take time to talk to them and get to know them. Without them, you have no business,” expresses Jackie.
The sisters have six groomers in their salon who groom around 40 dogs a day. Their dedicated front desk receptionist, Veronica Melnik—who happens to be the mother of one of the groomers—keeps things humming.
“She’s amazing and believes wholeheartedly in our philosophy of customer appreciation. She does the booking, answers the phone, checks in dogs, checks out dogs. She’s irreplaceable. She’s our trio to my sister and I,” says Jackie.
Like many groomers, Jackie and her sister started young in the grooming business. Jackie was a bather/clipper as a teenager and later Debbie followed her at the same salon. After about a decade, they decided it was time to go out on their own.
“Debbie found a building to lease. We’re still in the same place all these years later.”
As they grew, they added staff and retail.
“We have a little retail. Through trial and error, we’ve narrowed it down to sweaters, coats, lots of treats, and almost any grooming product that a dog would need. We can show them the right type of brush for their dog and why. They can’t get that level of service at the big box stores.”
They’ve added to their pet health knowledge over the years and now enjoy multiple veterinarian referrals.
“We have great relationships with several veterinarians. I’ve learned so much about anal glands and ear plucking from my vet and I’ve been able to share that knowledge with my customers. We have 4–5 vets that recommend us. That says a lot and makes me feel confident,” Jackie says gratefully.
Besides running the day–to–day of the salon with Debbie, Jackie is well–known in the industry as a competitive groomer.
Jackie started competing in dog grooming shows not long after she became a groomer. “I showed horses originally. Then, in 1992, I went to Intergroom in NJ and won the Gold Medal with a Kerry Blue Terrier. It was my first grooming competition.”
Jackie’s late husband, Brian Stopa, always attended the grooming shows with her. “He was like the groomer who wasn’t a groomer. He loved the industry and was supportive and helpful to everyone.”
There was an award named for Brian at the 2019 Barkleigh Honors Awards which took place at Groom Expo in September. Jackie presented The Brian Stopa Award for Spirit and Congeniality which was awarded to Sue Zecco.
With their dedication to their customers and award–winning groomers, Mucky Pups is sure to remain one of Calgary’s top salons! ✂️