Northeast Times

Puppy primps

Tony DeAm­icis clips Star’s nails at his mo­bile groom­ing salon, Bow Wow Meow. Since Star, a Yorkie poodle, was anxious in the be­gin­ning, DeAm­icis held the dog to calm her. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / FOR THE TIMES

Bow Wow Meow, a mo­bile groom­ing busi­ness, of­fers a more con­veni­ent way to pamper your fa­vor­ite furry friend.

Long be­fore Mar­sha Cipollini and Tony DeAm­icis star­ted a busi­ness re­volving around an­im­als, the moth­er and son were both an­im­al lov­ers.

They own 15 pets between them, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous formerly home­less cats that Mar­sha res­cued from a North Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hood sev­er­al years ago.

So it’s very be­liev­able when you hear Cipollini and DeAm­icis say that profits are not the first pri­or­ity for their new Bow Wow Meow mo­bile groom­ing busi­ness. Rather, the most im­port­ant thing, they say, is be­ing able to care for the furry res­id­ents of the Great­er North­east while ac­com­mod­at­ing the of­ten hec­tic sched­ules of the area’s pet own­ers.

Cipollini, of Burholme, and DeAm­icis, who lives in May­fair, christened their new mo­bile groom­ing fa­cil­ity — a highly mod­i­fied and lov­ingly dec­or­ated van — late last month. Since then, the buzz has been build­ing about their can­ine-, fe­line- and people-friendly busi­ness mod­el.

“My slo­gan is ‘Less stress for you and your pets,’” said Cipollini, a former fit­ness-cen­ter man­ager who has in­ves­ted much of her re­tire­ment fund in­to the new ven­ture.

“We don’t have (the an­im­als) in cages for hours. We pick up the dog or cat,” she said. “He goes in­to the van and then he’s back in­to the house.”

Mo­bile pet groom­ing, though per­haps un­fa­mil­i­ar to many, is not a new concept. In fact, DeAm­icis worked for sev­er­al years as a groom for a sub­urb­an-based busi­ness linked with a na­tion­al fran­chise, but be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with his em­ploy­er’s as­sembly-line ap­proach. In his view, the boss seemed more in­ter­ested in get­ting from job to job quickly than in giv­ing top-level care to each cli­ent.

DeAm­icis wanted to care for pets much like his mom took care of those stray cats in North Philly. Cipollini learned of the an­im­als from her aunt, who lived in the neigh­bor­hood and fed them reg­u­larly.

When the aunt moved in­to a nurs­ing home about four years ago, the cats lost their be­ne­fact­or. So Cipollini took it upon her­self to find them bet­ter sur­round­ings.

“That’s when I found out how much I love an­im­als,” she said. “It took me about a year to get all of the cats out of the neigh­bor­hood. I just couldn’t leave them there. They re­lied on her to live.”

Cipollini ad­op­ted 11 of the cats and found homes for about a dozen more.

In the af­ter­math of that, she thought about try­ing to work in an an­im­al hos­pit­al, but con­cluded that she wouldn’t be able to put any of the creatures to sleep. Open­ing a mo­bile groom­ing ser­vice was a much bet­ter op­tion.

“There aren’t many of them and they’re fran­chises,” she said. “I de­cided not to go with a fran­chise and to do it on my own. This way, I’m not pay­ing a per­cent­age (to a fran­chiser), I’m do­ing things my own way and I’m my own boss.”

DeAm­icis quit his oth­er groom­ing job and en­rolled at the New York School of Dog Groom­ing to hone his skills. Now he’s pro­fes­sion­ally trained to groom all ma­jor breeds.

As the fin­an­ci­er of the busi­ness, Cipollini sup­por­ted her son through school and shelled out $85,000 for the high-tech van.

The vehicle has an ex­ten­ded rear and raised roof, al­low­ing DeAm­icis to stand and work. It has an ad­justable groom­ing table, a large tub with “hy­dro surge” sham­poo sys­tem, fresh wa­ter sys­tem, in­dus­tri­al-power air-con­di­tion­ing, auto­mated clip­pers and hair dry­er, and a “fur­min­at­or” device used to re­move an an­im­al’s thick un­der­coat dur­ing nor­mal shed­ding sea­sons. The van also fea­tures a power gen­er­at­or and a sol­ar pan­el on the roof.

Artist Bob Babst drew the happy dog and cat ca­ri­ca­tures de­pic­ted on the sides and rear of the big white vehicle, while Cipollini and her friend Joyce Miller me­tic­u­lously con­figured the decals.

“My friends have been so sup­port­ive of me,” Cipollini said. “My girl­friend and I de­signed it and the first day (we got it) I burst out cry­ing. It really is a dream come true.”

For­tu­nately for Cipollini, the per­mit­ting pro­cess for the busi­ness was re­l­at­ively simple. She has no prob­lems trav­el­ing throughout the North­east and in­to some sub­urb­an com­munit­ies to serve cli­ents.

In terms of ser­vices, Bow Wow Meow has dogs and cats covered from nose to tail. Nail treat­ments called “pawd­i­cures” are avail­able, along with dent­al care, bath pack­ages, hand scis­sor­ing, clip­ping and brush­ing.

DeAm­icis spe­cial­izes in gen­er­ic cuts and breed-spe­cif­ic styles. All first-time cus­tom­ers are giv­en 20 per­cent off of nor­mal rates be­cause the op­er­at­ors want to en­cour­age re­peat cus­tom­ers for the be­ne­fit of the busi­ness and the an­im­als. 

Clean­li­ness is cru­cial for a healthy an­im­al, they say. And keep­ing pets healthy and happy is their ul­ti­mate goal. ••

For in­form­a­tion and ap­point­ments with Bow Wow Meow, call 215-742-2424 or vis­it www.BowWow­Meow­Pet­mobile.com.

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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