Today we’d like to introduce you to Debra Ray.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2001, I was working for a company that went out of business, so I went back to school but had to quit when my husband at the time decided he didn’t want to be a family man anymore. The kids were 7,8 and 14… He cleaned us out and took all the money never paid the bills so everything was getting ready to be shut off. He left the state and never looked back. I had to scramble to get help from the community and got help from a church. He told me he’d never pay me child support and he didn’t until he got caught but that wasn’t until the boys were in their 20’s. It was his Aunt Susan that offered me a position bathing dogs, she was grooming at Smoochie Poochie. The owner at the time, Lori, offered to teach me how to groom. So I jumped on it. In 2006, Lori decided to move and sold the place to Susan. Susan and I had a falling out so I left to work for another grooming shop. While I was working there I heard that Smoochie Poochie went out of business. I called her told her I was sorry that things didn’t work out for her and she offered to sell me Smoochie Poochie. So I talked to my boyfriend at the time. Tracey, and we decided to give it a go. He had a job that took him out of town a lot. At this time the business was in a little tuff shed that needed a lot of work. It fit one bathtub two grooming tables and six cages and a small front counter. It did have a bathroom in it though! There was barely enough room to turn around in. Tracey, when he was working in town, did a lot of work to try to improve the building but it was loaded with termites. And the termites won. We had to move the business that had been in that spot for roughly 30 years. It scared me it was a big change! We went from a 10 x 12 shed to a strip mall with 1300 square feet! Went through quite a few employees, I wanted them to care as much as I did, also ran into a problem with people lying on the application. Finally got an old friend from the other shop that I had worked at came to work with me! I made sure to keep my prices affordable for people to take care of their animals. We worked long days, 6 days a week and never turned down a customer. I had to hire a bather to help us, then another groomer came to us from a shop not too far away she had been let go because she had a heart attack. Eventually, we needed two bathers to keep up. I tried to run the phones, front counter, and groom but it got to be too much so I hired a front counter girl… Went through a few of them – hard to find good help. We outgrew our building and in Feb of this year found a place on the other side of the street with twice as much room. My whole team made me proud we worked all day then till 10 at night working on the new place. So, after 9 years lots of trial and error on hiring the right people, I can honestly say I am very proud of our team now. I call it the A team. We work together smoothly, even hang out together at night we are one big happy family. When you have happy employees, you have happy puppies and that’s what makes us special!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The only thing I can think of is when I was buying it, I had to bring my kids to work with me because I couldn’t find a sitter so they (at 7,8 and 12) had to help mom instead of playing with other kids. The boys eventually ended up working for me as bathers and one has followed in my footsteps and has become a bather.
I don’t have photos yet will send them tomorrow I can groom a dog but can’t figure out where my photos are. LOL
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Smoochie Poochie Dog Grooming – what should we know?
We offer multi-pet discounts and have coupons on Facebook once in a while Also as I said we are one big happy family and we CARE about our customers and their pets. We have also hooked up with a mobile vet to help out our community. We don’t book a bunch of dogs all at the same time so we don’t keep them all day. Normal turnaround time is 2 2 1/2 hours. We will keep them all day at no extra charge if that’s what the customer needs. WE also understand that some dogs like men more than woman or vice versa so we have both so the pet can be comfortable. We do try to keep the pets with the same groomer so it gets to be routine and they know what to expect.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My husband Tracey has worked hard to build us the perfect new location. He worked 7-3;30 at his job and worked till 10 at night gets us set up at the new location My employees have been there everyday never miss work and my new front counter girl, Jess works hard every day going above and beyond what I asked from her. Oscar, my groomer that has been with me a long time and never has a complaint never misses work and has been loyal through the years Keri who is waiting on a new heart still comes in and gives it her all – we pray daily she gets one soon. My son Todd not only bathes, he grooms and fixes things around the shop that need done. Cory also bathes and grooms he is always early and also does more then what is asked of him. We blend in so well together I couldn’t ask for a better team.
- Small dogs, $40 no extra charges; nails $6 no extra charge to grind
- Also, groom cats $40 bath and brush $60 shave
- Big dogs, $60-$65 nails –walk-in $6
- Address: 10839 east apache trail #127 apache junction az 85119
- Website: smoochiepoochiedoggrooming.com
- Phone: 480-984-1212
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: n/a
- Facebook: Smoochie Poochie Debra Ray