A Queens Pet Groomer’s Spin on Self-Service

By Christine Dayao

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Joseph Martinez, the owner of Dog Days and Cat Nights, a pet-grooming business, also allows customers to come in and bath their dogs (for a modest fee).

Self-service car washes. Self-checkout at grocery stores and home improvement centers. Now, a Queens pet groomer is offering self-service dog-washing.

Nestled between a Chinese food restaurant and an eyeglass store on Metropolitan Avenue in Kew Gardens is Dog Days and Cat Nights, a pet-grooming business, whose owner, Joseph Martinez, worked for 21 years as a veterinary technician at an animal hospital in Little Neck, Queens.

For years, the store was a beauty salon. Last March, after years of different owners and name changes, it reopened with a focus on pets. Dog Days and Cat Nights offers grooming, day care, overnight boarding and a retail section with food, toys, supplements and accessories. At least once a month, a veterinarian comes to give pets their shots. Previously, the only pet groomers in the area were almost a mile away in neighboring Forest Hills.

But what makes Dog Days and Cat Nights unusual is its self-service option.

“A lot of places offer high-tech dog-washing—done by the workers — but I thought self-service dog-washing would be an inexpensive way for couples living in apartments to wash their dogs,” says Martinez, with a laugh. “They won’t have a big, wet shaggy dog running around.”

He also thought that the dog bath could be a good weekend activity for couples and possibly a fun bonding experience for everyone involved.

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No dog is too big or too small for Martinez to groom.

The service is particularly directed at the many apartment dwellers in Kew Gardens, whose streets are lined with large apartment buildings and condominiums. Some are happy to come in and bathe their own dogs, Martinez says, while “others want me to do it.”

One dog owner, Fran Ammendola, says, “It’s a small price to pay instead of getting your house dirty, and you have pride in knowing you did it yourself.”

Martinez says that over average, about four owners a day come in to wash their dogs. He charges $15 to $20, depending on the dog’s size, for which he supplies the tub, water, soap and shampoo, towels and a hair dryer. When he does the bathing himself, Martinez charges $30 to $45.

The washing room is in the yellow back room of the shop. On the right side is a large metal tub about two feet off the ground, with an attached hose. Surrounding the tub sit a variety of industrial-sized soap and shampoo bottles; the left side of the room houses a grooming station and three large glass boarding units.

Many dogs are playful and it’s hard to get them to stay still, especially during bath time. So how successful are owners at controlling their dogs at bath time?

Martinez says the personality of the person doing the washing is important. “The dogs sense your anxiousness or if you’re nervous, they’ll get fidgety,” he explains. “Just stay calm and they’ll relax too.”

A beige Labradoodle — a mixed breed of a Labrador and Poodle — named Bonnie did just that as Martinez scrubbed her down. As she was soaped and shampooed, she didn’t bark or make a fuss.

As three small yelping dogs and their owner walked in, a look of joy spread across Martinez’s face. Looking around his brightly-lighted, well-maintained store, he says: “You don’t get into this business for the money. You have to have passion.”

“I’m fortunate,” he says. “People are happy that I’m here. I’ve been welcomed by the neighborhood.”