“Frank was just one of those people that would climb a mountain and reach back and help you up,” says Delise Knight. “He helped build this industry, and we are all better for knowing him.”
Most of us in the grooming community first met Frank as he worked his booth, Frank Rowe & Son Grooming Supplies and Sharpening, at a grooming show. Frank was a small, soft–spoken man and at first, you might have assumed that he was “just an ordinary guy.” However, when you saw his perpetual smile, his trademark red, white and blue suspenders, and the light–up flashing bow tie he always wore, you may have gotten an inkling that there was far more to Frank than meets the eye.
Frank Rowe was an “extra”–ordinary guy who packed more living into his time on earth than most people could cram into several lifetimes. As a young man in 1958, Frank went into the army. During his basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas, Frank and Elvis Presley were in the same outfit. Elvis was in the barracks next to Frank’s and they sailed on the same ship when they were sent to Germany. Frank had many stories to tell about Elvis and the countless girls that flocked around him.
In his 20’s, when Frank got tired of hitchhiking home on leave, he got his pilot’s license and then bought his own airplane. Frank served tours of duty in Germany, Korea and Vietnam, receiving numerous commendations, medals and promotions. Major Francis “Frank” Rowe retired from the army in 1978.
While he was still in the army, Frank opened a business where he repaired lawn mowers and sharpened everything from ice skates to chain saws. Those skills fit well into his plan for the next chapter of his life. Some of his customers were also pet groomers and they began asking him to sharpen their clipper blades and scissors. After much research, Frank designed, developed and built his own machine to do the sharpening.
After his Army retirement, the sharpening and clipper repair business rapidly grew. Frank added grooming tools and products and began to exhibit at industry shows. The nametag he wore at the tradeshows said, “Frank Rowe, Ultra Extra Nice Guy.” That’s when he met Sally Liddick and Gwen Shelly of Barkleigh Productions, Inc. In addition to having a booth at their show, Frank became a featured speaker. He began to present hands–on seminars to teach groomers how to maintain and care for their clippers, blades and scissors.
Frank’s son, Dan, has been part of the business since he was eight years old. Now, what started as a small, local business has grown into an internationally–known supplier of quality products and services for the pet industry.
“One of the most important things I learned from my dad was integrity,” says Dan. “Say what you are going to do, and then do it. That goes along with customer service and is one of the reasons we have been in this business for so long. We have always placed the customer first and done everything in our power to satisfy them.”
That stellar customer service earned them the Barkleigh Honors Vendor of the Year Award for five years in a row.
Frank’s caring, compassionate side was revealed every day by the things he did for others. “He was ‘the bank’ for us vendors,” says Randy Lowe. “Anytime anyone needed change of any kind, we would ask Frank.”
“That’s so true,” agrees Gwen Shelly. “We all called him ‘Franko–Banko.’ But, more than that, Frank always seemed to have anything that you were in need of. When a group of us went to Guatemala on a mission trip, Frank’s suitcase was like a convenience store. If someone needed a safety pin, band aid, or nail clippers, Frank had it.”
“On more than one occasion I saw him help a groomer in need,” recalls Delise Knight. “There were times groomers didn’t have the equipment, or something broke when they were competing, and Frank handed it to them and said, ‘We’ll talk about it later.’”
Then, there was a side of Frank Rowe that most of us did not see. His daughter, Amy, shares some of it with us: “My dad owned a total of seven motorcycles and rode all over the country, eventually taking up the sport of motocross. He was an excellent marksman but never hunted, stating, ‘Once I had enough money to buy all my food that was the end of hunting for me!’
“Dad traveled all over the world, visiting every continent. He made countless friends through his travels and faithfully kept in touch with them. He was a very social person and he enjoyed getting together with friends to play Pinochle, Tile–Rummy, volleyball, and to dance in Hummelstown on Friday nights.
“His skills as a craftsman were legendary,” Amy adds. “He could build, repair, or create just about anything. He was the ‘go–to’ man for friends, family, and neighbors in need—readily jumping in to fix a flat tire, pull a car out of a ditch, or repair a plumbing problem.
“Dad was also a contradiction of sorts,” continues Amy with a warm smile. “He was extremely frugal yet incredibly generous, passing out pens, magnifying glasses, candy, etc. to literally everyone he met. And, truth be told, he never met a dumpster, flea market, or yard sale that he didn’t like.”
Frank was a devoted father to Amy and Dan, and never missed a school function or event they were involved with. In fact, there is a legendary (and true) story of Frank bringing his pet Copperhead snake to Amy’s 4th grade class for show–and–tell.
“That was the kind of dad he was; involved, a bit crazy, but forever supportive and proud,” says his daughter–in–law, Debbie Rowe. “But what made Frank most memorable and will be missed most of all was his unique sense of humor. Quick–witted with an affinity for pranks and practical jokes, he was a natural magnet to those around him as everyone waited for his next hilarious one–liner.”
“When I would see Frank Rowe at a show, I always knew I was in for a treat,” says Teri DiMarino. “It might have been to give me a small gift, or introduce me to a new product. But, more often than not, it was to share a joke or two. He had a terrific, albeit dry, sense of humor. Frank’s delivery was always spot on and was guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.”
“Frank has always been one of my favorite people to see at industry shows,” says Sue Zecco. “He made me laugh, because he always had a joke to tell…sometimes they were, um, not the kind you’d tell your mom…but funny just the same. If they were real bad, I’d snap his suspenders.”
“I have known and worked with Frank for many years,” says John Stazko. “One time at Intergroom, after he helped me set up, Frank attended the seminar on First Aid I was presenting. I used an inflatable dog for the demo,” continues John. “As I placed the dog on the table, everyone started laughing. I was confused because I had not made any jokes. Then one of the attendees in the front row pointed at the dog. I looked under the dog and saw Frank’s handiwork. He had taken the gauze pads that I use in my presentation, molded them into a large penis, and taped it under the dog’s belly.”
Only Frank! Whether he was giving you a hand up the mountain, helping you with your grooming needs or making you laugh until your sides split, he gave it his all.
Our unforgettable friend, Frank Rowe, was certainly an “ultra, extra nice guy” and a true gift to the grooming industry. ✂️