Joan the Bitch

The trim is a 'Town and Country'.  I wanted to do a classic 'Dutch', but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted.  Note the balance, that her pants are not 'falling off'.

The trim is a ‘Town and Country’. I wanted to do a classic ‘Dutch’, but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not ‘falling off’.

I left my parents home about a month after I turned 18…& went to live with my boyfriend (later, briefly, my husband) up in Milwaukee, where he was going to school.  I think our rent was $150 a month, & split 5 ways, that meant I didn’t have to earn that much. I found a job at a ‘mom & pop’  grooming shop that really didn’t have that much business. A friend saw an ad in the Milwaukee Sentinel & suggested I call.

The job was way across town, on Appleton Ave. just south of Capitol Dr.  I lived on the east side, near the university.   I had to take 2—sometimes 3 buses to get there—8 miles from where I lived.  The guy who answered the phone  told me just to come in on Tuesday.

The shop was in a modern  stand alone building that looked like it might possibly  have been a house at  one time.  They had a very nice retail area, and  the grooming area was also extremely nice.  It’s something, to this day—forty years later—that I base my  ideas on. They were also hiring another groomer .We both  (Betty, the other hire)  and I sat down at  grooming tables.  Shortly after  9,  a skinny  bottle blond walked in the back door with 2 Boston terriers in her arms.  She seemed friendly enough. She asked us some questions about our experience grooming, and told us she would show us how she wanted us to groom, keep records, and clean up.

Joan  Fredericksen was a very good groomer.  She had  learned, originally, on her Poodle, and since she really wanted to do things right, she joined the Waukesha Kennel Club  and learned from club members how to groom the various breeds.  I learned so much from her. I learned how to really style  the terriers, l how to  budget my time, and how to run a business.

As time went on, the truth came out as to why she had to hire  2 new groomers.  She had been raising Boston Terriers, and they are a difficult breed to  breed.  They  do not breed or whelp themselves, and they come out mismarked (the breed standard is very clear about them having a white blaze  on their faces,  the rest being dark,and the  white socks), and this color thing in addition to  general conformation, and needing C sections.  She was showing dogs  on Saturdays and Sundays and was still not  getting majors ( critical number of points to make a dog a champion), but she would not let her groomers, who were showing Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers, have Saturdays off. They were showing dogs on Sundays only, and their dogs were becoming champions.

There were other issues as well:  groomers having to take turns coming in late on Fridays and working  1 to 9 AND THEN  having to come in before 9 on Saturday morning;  Not getting 50% for the grooms but  40  to 45%.    Having to stay until 5:00 p.m. even if they were finished grooming by 1:00 p.m. and had kids at home.  So, they quit en masse and decided to  just groom in their homes. Joan had a melt down and disappeared. Her husband, Jerry did not  own the shop (he sold typewriters and adding machines—this was 1972), but her income was significant. So, he ran an ad in the paper,and  told me to come in.  Nobody was more surprised than  Jerry was when Joan showed up.

Joan taught us about styling,  scissoring,  managing our time, and keeping records, and marketing.  She was also  a self-proclaimed bitch.  She and the  groomers who quit  had a truce.  They had to. Milwaukee is a very small  place if you are a dog person.  Good thing I was young, however.  I couldn’t do the commute today.  In any case, Betty left, and another girl  joined us, and he  ultimately became an award winning groomer. So did I.

I also learned about a different  ‘culture’.  I came from a Jewish community, and  very few  people with kids got divorced.  I never heard of anyone having an affair.    The Fredericksens were Catholics, and  did everything to needle each other.  Also, we got all the gossip from the kennel club, as Joan’s friends would stop in.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  Joan joked about being Joan the Bitch!  At first, I was horrified.  Yet  she was someone to emulate in her  courage and integrity.  She didn’t care  who knew.  She  just had a traditional way of being a boss that didn’t particularly work for groomers.

Yes, I learned a lot, and  after about a year, Joan  took her kids on a vacation to Arizona and decided she wanted to move out there. She came back to  sell her house and told Jerry to sell the business.  I wanted to buy it, but my father  told me they didn’t have adequate business records for him to lend me money.  I was there 5 days a week. I could see what the business was taking in, and I knew what the bills were.  No matter. It looked like my co-w0rker would buy it, but  some people who showed dogs came in with a better offer, and  they ran the business for a few years.  I have no idea who owns it now, but it is still in business:  Jo-Kor’s Klippette.

As a groomer, I often find business owners  looking for a groomer with ‘no drama’.  I’ve worked in many other places since then. There was no drama at Jo-Kor’s Klippette because Joan ran a good business, was fair (for the most part), and was a groomer herself.I think that’s very important. she would not ask us to do anything she would not do herself.   Very little dematting, rarely did we have a troublesome dog.

I worked at  a place about  20 years ago where  1 of the groomers was very immature. She’d show up late, bring her kids (a grooming shop can be a very dangerous place), and then you’d ask if anyone had to use the tub, as you were about to bathe a dog, she wouldn’t say anything, but would make a dash to the tub. She’d take a cage dryer off  a dog without asking you if you needed it.  I’ve worked at several places where the owner said they were very busy, but  when you came to work, her groomer with seniority had ‘dibs’ on as many dogs as she wanted, and you might get 2 dogs to groom. Not a living wage, yet that other groomer was complaining about how overworked she was &  she needed help. Sure she did—she didn’t want to give up any commissions.

I’ve worked in places where they didn’t brush dogs out thoroughly, or bathed them in cold water, or  just stuck a cage dryer on a dog and ‘forgot ‘ to check it.

I have just left a  business (their main service was  dog daycare and boarding) that  barely had any grooming business when I started.  The groomer had just ‘disappeared’ as  we tend to do, and the owner was frantic.  I came in, and the grooming room was actually a storage area with a 60 watt  bulb.  I told the owner that  she needed more  shadow free lighting.  The owner actually said to me, “Well, this was good enough for Sara!”  I answered, “Sara walked out. I am telling you what I need to do a good job.”

It turned out she had virtually no contact information for any of her ‘grooming clients’, so, I consented to working for her  3 days a week until we rebuilt the business.  I  told her she needed a form for contact information for every grooming client—as she  had for her kennel dogs.  She actually asked me why.  I told her we were going to send out reminders to get people to come in regularly. I also told her we needed another dryer. She didn’t want to spend the money.  She told me to buy a dryer,and, if I stayed with her for  6 months, she’d reimburse me.

She decided to  do Groupons  and Living Social Discounts. Suddenly, I was not getting full commissions…& it went down hill from there.  We were not  totally busy 3 full days a week.  We got a lot of new clients who  didn’t show up, didn’t  stay loyal (they were coming  from miles away for the discount), and she hired a GROOMING MANAGER TO MANAGE ME AND  UPGRADE THE ROOM, send out reminders, and order supplies.  This manager  did not do anything she was paid to do.

I  saw great potential  at this business, but I had to get other work.  I learned a lot from other groomers. Seems my situation was not unique.  More and more businesses were  being owned by non-groomers.  So many would not buy or repair equipment. They wanted  us to use ineffective products, and wouldn’t pay for good stuff.    They  were hiring groomers right out of school and thought that if a dog looked fluffy it was well groomed.

Joan was sort of a mentor to me.  Because of her, I know what all the terriers are supposed to look like, and how to correct faults.  I know how to look at a mixed breed dog now, too, and know that not every dog needs a clipper taken to it.  How do you explain that to  a business owner sho has never groomed, shown, or trained a dog herself?  I have no idea.


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One Response to “Joan the Bitch”

  1. How To Find a Puppy Says:

    Love reading your blogs when I find time!! Wendy- Thanks!

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