While people have been grooming dogs for thousands of years in some form or other, many groomers have no idea how relatively recent and how dramatic the changes and growth in our industry have been.
From the invention of the clipper, the electric dryer and the many other significant advances in recent decades to the quality and diversity of our grooming tools, much has changed about being a professional pet groomer in the almost 50 years since the late Jerry Schinberg first thought groomers ought to have trade shows and contests just like beauticians did.
If the reader can imagine a time before the internet and social media, the grooming industry could be fairly described then as secretive, generally isolated and very competitive. There were virtually no means by which groomers could communicate with each other on a large scale. There were few publications, no social media, no trade shows, no organizations, few textbooks, no chain stores with grooming services and very few grooming schools. Salons were rare, and groomers most often worked from their homes and kept their practices to themselves.
If there has been one giant paradigm shift in our industry, it is the now standard professional norm of collaboration, mutual professional education, support and cheerleading that we now so often see groomers giving each other.
The first grooming trade show was held in 1973 in an Arlington Heights, Illinois High School Field House and was a one–day event called “The All American Midwest Professional Dog Grooming Contest and Seminar.” There were an enthusiastic 50 entrants to the competitions and only five vendors. But, the groomers loved it so much, they begged Jerry to do it again the next year.
So, in 1974 All American became a two–day show and was held at a hotel in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It made local news, written up by the Chicago Sun–Times, which called pet grooming “Big Business.”
Fast forward to 1981, and All American was a three–day event at a real conference center at the Sheraton near O’Hare, the nation’s busiest airport in Chicago.
At that time, there were only five classes of competition: Standard Poodles, Toy Poodles, Mixed Breeds, Speed Scissoring and Terriers. Creative Grooming was really a product of Jerry’s theatrical creativity and showmanship. He was always seeking new challenges and wanted a competition that was different than the breed standard competitions. Color and costumes did not come right away, but one of the first I remember was the Pretty Pony in Pink by Dawn Omboy. I also recall award–winning Chicago Master Groomer Romaine Michelle carving a lion into the side of a Chow Chow.
However, Jerry’s all–time, overarching goal of this event was for groomers to learn. Personally, as a beginning part–time groomer getting to attend these early shows, it was all about the learning—especially for groomers like me who were not competing.
Grooming supply retailers soon also learned the huge benefit to having groomers gathered in one place at one time where information could be more easily shared. The trade show aspect of these events exploded quickly, thankfully, to all groomers’ benefit.
Jerry also wanted grooming trade shows to be fun. Given his theatrical background, he was always in spangly costumes and was in his element with a microphone and a spotlight. He envisioned the themed parties and the live entertainment that have come to characterize our modern conferences. These events were not only for our education and our professional betterment, they were also to be an escape from our hard–working business lives. He created fun contests such as Smock Decorating and even mat–sculpturing contests; what clever piece of art can you make out of a matted pile of hair?!
Historically speaking, we all stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us, and because of the elevation they have given us, we can see much further. Thank you to all our earliest industry leaders for elevating us all. And long live the All American Grooming Show! ✂️