By Jen Phillips April
Photos by Kaitlyn Rosae Photography
When Stephanie Pietri saw the availability sign on a 100-year-old building in her town, her imagination ignited.
“I told my husband, wouldn’t it be something if we could get that building and open a dog grooming salon?”
With 20 years of experience as a dog groomer, Stephanie felt ready for her own business. “After 20 years, there’s nothing I haven’t seen or problem-solved.”
She’d had her eye on the historic train depot in South Windsor, CT. “I used to ride by this building on the school bus as a kid, so when I saw it was available, it sparked my interest. It took six months to renovate the building. The previous business had been an insurance agency, so we had to take down walls.”
The stunning salon features black clawfoot tubs that sit in front of plate glass windows. “People get a kick out of them. They’re the first thing people see because they’re in the big window. From a grooming perspective, they’re comfortable to bathe the dogs in because when the dogs shake, the water stays within the bowl instead of splattering you.”
In addition to the clawfoot tubs, the salon also features chandeliers and open spaces. “I’d never seen an upscale salon for dogs. I was inspired by my friend’s hair salon. I started with the clawfoot tubs, and of course, Pinterest.”
When Stephanie opened the Ruff & Tumble salon in September 2019, she had the normal fears of opening a new business. Would the clients come? But she was delighted with the response. They held a grand opening covered by local news and attended by the Mayor and a state senator.
Now she employs one other groomer, Lindsey Potter, and a part-time bather, Karen Gillette. Stephanie is delighted to work with talented people and quotes Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue Magazine, “You are absolutely nothing without a great team.”
The Ruff & Tumble team sees around 45-55 dogs per week.
“I’m a competitive groomer so I’m trained on the breed haircuts. I also handle hand-stripping services which isn’t that common in the area. Everyone is credentialed and well-trained on handling special needs dogs,” says Stephanie.
Another thing that sets Ruff & Tumble apart is the fact that the shop is open and exposed so that people can see the process of the bathing and grooming. “We encourage people to come in and watch their dogs get groomed. This puts people at ease, especially if they have a nervous dog.”
Stephanie also said they see a lot of doodles. “Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Bernedoodles. There are a lot of them in the area and they have a great temperament. Depending on how short or long the owner wants them, they need to be on a schedule at least every 4-6 weeks.”
Even during the March and April business closures, Ruff & Tumble was still grooming dogs.
Stephanie says, “The Governor of CT said we’re an essential business. Of course, we can’t let people in the building like we usually do. So we escort dogs from the car and take payment over the phone. We do additional cleaning during COVID-19 like disinfecting and sanitizing common countertops and doorknobs.”
Looking to the future, Stephanie wants to bring award-winning groomers to the salon and offer continued education so they’re always at the top of their game. In keeping with this mission, Ruff & Tumble will also be a host site for the annual National Dog Grooming Association Workshops and Testing this August. ✂️