For the past several years, I have been invited to host and emcee the Fall Festival for my home show at the NEPGP. It has been an honor and so much fun. It has also been an eye-opener to be privy to how hard the board members of this organization work all year leading up to the show and then the show itself. When the NEPGP first began running the trade show, there were only a few trade shows running throughout the year. The industry was smaller, there were fewer manufacturers, and I would say the pie was divided into larger pieces. With the great success of the trade shows, the growth and increasing respect for our trade, as well as many new innovations and vendors coming on the scene, there are more shows throughout the country.
The past few years, between this change in our industry, as well as a struggling economy, attendance at our New England show has fallen. It is simply a different world out there, and organizing a big show has gotten tougher on the volunteers. It was concerning to me, and I found myself worrying about the future of the organization.
Flashback to Groom Expo several years ago.
Sally Liddick approached me after one of my seminars on retailing. She shared with me that the attendees loved the program, and she asked me if I would consider writing an article for this very magazine. I was thrilled. I had known Sally for many years and had incredible respect for her as a businesswoman. Easy Money was the article, and I was with Barkleigh as a writer and teacher for many years.
The other part of that conversation, however, was on my mind at the NEPGP show last year. Sally had said to me that the industry was going to change, and she knew in her heart that I would be a part of that change. At the time, I really didn’t think anything of it besides it being a huge compliment, but the industry had changed tremendously since that conversation, and Sally had already been thinking about it 20 years ago.
After Sally’s death, her business partner at Barkleigh, Gwen Shelly, handed the reins to her son Todd and Adam Lohr, although she continues to keep tabs on these youngins! Todd and I have become very good friends, and he invited me back into the Groomer to Groomer fold last year. I also have been working on GroomerTV and some other projects with him. I had a strong feeling at that NEPGP show that somehow Todd and I could brainstorm some ideas regarding the tradeshow, considering the overwhelming success of Groom Expo and other Barkleigh endeavors.
What came out of that brainstorm is not what I expected at all. I wanted to figure out a way to keep the integrity and flavor of our NEPGP show but clearly needed help with the marketing and production side of things. After several meetings with Todd and current board members over the course of the next few months, I am thrilled to share with you that the NEPGP and Barkleigh Productions will work as partners on this year’s trade show! We will honor the flavor and traditions of our New England show with the support and show production expertise of Barkleigh.
The NEPGP will continue to offer the educational programs it set out to provide its membership with over 40 years ago and will have the time and energy and resources to continue its mission. Barkleigh will transition over the next few years to include the New England show as part of its family of successful trade show events while honoring the traditions and years of hard work by our New England board members, past and present. Barkleigh will also provide our NEPGP with advertising support and assistance to continue our educational mission. It really is a win-win-win. NEPGP will return to its roots of education and excellence, Barkleigh will produce another successful trade show, and our New England grooming community and industry vendors will take part in a great show right here in our own backyard!
Linda Claflin reflects on her years with NEPGP and looks ahead:
“I went to my first New England Pet Grooming Professionals (NEPGP) seminar and competition in the early 1980s and thought I was a pretty good groomer. I was blown away by the quality of work back then and continue to be inspired. I joined as member M174 and am proud to say that today, we are just about to the M2500s. It was suggested I join the Board and have served my organization for over 20 years.
“For the past seven years, I have had the challenge of being the Show Coordinator. From a person who was afraid to turn on the computer and was freaking out that ‘replacing these contents’ would erase everything, I feel proud to have tested myself, learn and grow in more than just organizational skills. I am one of those who can benefit and have benefitted from the principles of NEPGP. I am thrilled to have the Barkleigh staff partner with us at our fall show so I can immerse in the energized atmosphere and receive what I have been working to give. Barkleigh is as good as it gets.”
Those of you that know our New England family know Mr. Tony and Mrs. Toni. Let me share with you one of the reasons finding support from Barkleigh has been such a relief for me, personally. Mrs. Toni is like my auntie. She is family to me, as are Linda, Sue Pratt, and so many other people in this organization.
Over the last few years, the lives of both Toni and me have changed dramatically. My mother’s illness and the birth of my daughter have made me really reevaluate my own time and my own energy. Toni has had her share of health issues, and she and Mr. Tony are still hard at work in their grooming and kennel business. She has been needing to slow down, but her love of this organization and these people she has come to love made it very hard to let go. We had a conversation one day about this, and I felt clear that something had to give. When I saw Toni and Linda at Intergroom, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. To be able to continue the mission of the organization and keep the integrity of this show that so many people have worked so incredibly hard on for years was a dream.
“I have a long involvement with NEPGP, and I hold its core principles very close to my heart. With Barkleigh taking the management of the trade show, I can think about what makes NEPGP as vital to the industry as a whole. That is our educational mission to provide an oasis of learning, a renewal of vitality instead of the seeing grooming as the ‘same thing’ every day. Between the trade show, the member duties, and the logistical difficulties, this has been a rigorous task but also a labor of love. I am thrilled to ‘pass the baton’ to Barkleigh so I can renew my input while receiving the essence of our group. Barkleigh is at the top of the trade show world, and I can’t think of a better partnership for our group.” — Toni Coppola
“Just wanted to say what pleasure it gives me to write about some early times with the New England Pet Grooming Professionals. NEPGP has ALWAYS been my favorite grooming group (and way back when, there were several state/regional associations), so I speak from the heart. I always adored going there. I think I was one of the first groomers asked to judge Best Groomed Dog in Show and was always treated with the greatest respect, no matter who was show chairman or president of the group. And I will never forget the support NEPGP members gave to me when I organized Intergroom.” —Fondly, Shirlee Kalstone
“I am pretty sure I joined when it first began — I think 1978 or 9, when it was MAPDG. When I decided to make grooming my career, I jumped in and got involved. Meeting Sue Pratt was one of the best things that ever happened to me. She got me involved with competing, certification testing, and being on the board of directors. I served as secretary, vice president, and then president, which also led to being the contest and trade show coordinator along with Patty Allard and a host of other dedicated members. The association was now NEPGP, and after 15 years of running a successful show, I stepped down and went on to help coordinate other shows. When H.H.Backer wanted to add a grooming competition to their already successful trade show, Patty and I came highly recommended by Shirlee Kalstone. So now we are on our eleventh year of co-coordinating the H. H. Backer Celebration of Style competition in Chicago, IL. I was also asked to take over coordinating the National Dog Groomers Association of America’s two grooming contests each year, which I have been doing now for several years. This all stemmed from getting involved with a totally volunteer group of groomers who took pride in their profession and helped make a better way for future groomers. I owe this group many many thanks!” — Sincerely, Sue Zecco, NCMG
I cannot thank Todd and the folks at Barkleigh enough for their openness and willingness to hear our collective voice and understand what this organization and this tradeshow have meant to so many people. It has been a labor of love for this New England grooming family. Sleepless nights, endless board meetings, tired backs and feet – and yet when you read these quotes and you hear these voices, it has been a joyful journey, albeit sometimes a little dysfunctional and nutty. Just like one, big, happy family.
My gratitude to everyone that responded to my request for quotes.
My never-ending respect to all who have served on the board of this organization. “