Tracy Harris (pictured) began pet-grooming 20 years ago. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

Tracy Harris (pictured) began pet-grooming 20 years ago. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

Pet-grooming on wheels: How new Mercer Island groomer’s model is faring amid pandemic

Om Doggies owner Tracy Harris opened her business as soon as Gov. Inslee announced Phase 1.5.

Before the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Om Doggies, a new traveling grooming business owned and operated by Mercer Islander Tracy Harris, was due to open in May.

But then in March, Gov. Jay Inslee put in place a stay-at-home order designed to mitigate the spread of the virus. His order forced several “inessential” businesses to close — one of them being pet grooming.

Rather than take a common reactionary route to the virus, such as keeping things postponed indefinitely, Harris used the delay to her advantage.

“With that in mind, that extra time I essentially used to continue to polish up my back office, business rhythm,” Harris said.

As part of Inslee’s phased approach to safely reopening the state, many businesses, such as pet groomers, were eventually permitted to see through a kind of soft reopening under a modified version of Phase 1 before a more fully fledged reopening under Phase 2.

Om Doggies officially started business as soon as Inslee confirmed that Phase 1.5 was a go about a month ago. King County moved on to Phase 2 on June 19.

So far, Harris said, business has been great. She had communicated about her upcoming venture long before opening with the community (she’s lived on the south part of Mercer Island for the last decade), and word of mouth has helped it gain traction.

Harris uses a business model that sets her apart from conventional groomers, which typically set up shop at brick-and-mortar locations.

Using a charcoal-gray 2020 Ford Transit van (“imagine even bigger than what you see cruising around the Island from an Amazon Prime delivery perspective”), Harris drives to clients rather than have them come to her. The inside of the van has been completely renovated to accommodate her grooming interests — a tub is built in, for example. And when it comes time for grooming, it’s just her and the dog.

Harris drives to her clients in a 2020 Ford Transit van (pictured) that has been renovated inside to resemble a typical grooming salon. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

Harris drives to her clients in a 2020 Ford Transit van (pictured) that has been renovated inside to resemble a typical grooming salon. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

“People are very happy that I’m coming to their home,” Harris said. “I think that because of COVID or maybe looking to go outside of their routine from a minimizing social-contact perspective, the mobile edge does check that box for them.”

Harris began her pet-grooming career in 2000, at a luxury grooming shop in Bellevue. Quickly, she became one of the shop’s top groomers.

Harris, however, decided to take a break when her daughter was born. She still always had dogs around and did grooming from time to time. But Om Doggies, which is a passion project, makes for her most recent foray into professional grooming.

“I really emphasize quality over quantity,” Harris said, noting that the van is always climate controlled and that she offers hand-blown drying rather than cage drying, for instance.

Although Harris’ business layout doesn’t much resemble her more orthodox pet-grooming peers, she still has to follow the same payment and cleanliness guidelines as outlined for the state. When an appointment is booked, Harris reminds the customer that just one person should be bringing out the dog rather than the whole family to minimize human contact. None of these adjustments were noted as particular obstacles for Harris or her customers.

Harris said that her dog clients always receive care that prioritizes quality over quantity. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

Harris said that her dog clients always receive care that prioritizes quality over quantity. Photo courtesy Tracy Harris

“One of the things I think a lot of us here on the Island feel is the sense of community here — the love and passion for pets is high,” she said. “The owners are there to do right by their dog, and they are delighted that they’re getting this…It just warms my heart to think that there’s so much passion for these pets, and I hope that the families that I’m working for now feel the love and dedication that draws me to this line of work as well.”

For now, Harris is looking forward to what the future brings.

“I have found a little niche here in my community where I get to continue to nurture my relationships with people and their dogs,” she said. “When I was thinking about the business model before pulling the trigger on, you know, buying this state of the art mobile conversion van, it feels really good, coming to fruition.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

[flipp]

More in Business

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Teaser
First large-scale, human composting facility in the world will open in Auburn

“It’s what nature meant us to do. We just do it faster.”

Whole Foods grocery store entrance (Shutterstock)
King County considers grocery store worker hazard pay for those in unincorporated areas

The King County Metropolitan Council will vote during its next meeting on… Continue reading

t
Pogacha offers Valentine’s Day specials on Mercer Island

Pogacha restaurant on Mercer Island is getting ready for Valentine’s Day with… Continue reading

Screenshot
WA Democrats consider new tax on billionaires

Plan could raise $5 billion from fewer than 100 taxpayers. Detractors fear it could drive Washington’s wealthiest out of state.

Last summer, people took advantage of the outdoor dining along First Avenue between Gowe and Titus streets in downtown Kent. In Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Photo courtesy of Kent Downtown Partnership
Restaurant reprieve: State to relax some indoor restrictions

On Monday, area restaurants and certain entertainment venues may resume indoor service, the governor said.

Stock photo
State Senate passes $1.7 billion in unemployment insurance tax relief

Targets relief to the most affected businesses; helps low-wage workers by raising their benefits

Jason Wilson is a James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of The Lakehouse in Bellevue. Courtesy photo
James Beard Award winner wants to cook with you – virtually

Chef Jason Wilson can give customers an interactive dining experience in their own homes.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Blazer

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to certain car models they… Continue reading

2021 Lexus RX 350L. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Lexus RX 350L

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a good day when a Lexus… Continue reading

The Cadillac CT4 is designed to appeal to a new generation of Cadillac buyers with its athletic design and astute driving dynamics. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

By Larry Lark, contributor With apologies to Oldsmobile, “the 2020 CT4 Premium… Continue reading