Paw Prints on Your Heart

Croton’s Pampered Pet, Croton-on-Hudson:

Sheila McManus

pampered pets (2)No need to ruff it at Croton’s Pampered Pet, a new grooming lounge for dogs, and the people who buy their bully sticks. Freshly painted murals by a local high school artist and portraits of satisfied four-legged clients give the business  a salon vibe. Handmade organic dog biscuits by a local entrepreneur are just a drop in the bowl. Shop colorful collars and leashes, mailable rawhide greeting cards and organic dental chews, too. Owner Sheila McManus was the neighborhood postman until a serious car accident disabled her; unemployment followed back injury and knee surgery. By then she’d fallen in love with Croton and had moved her family, Haylee, now 15, and Edwin, now 10, here four years earlier. A lifetime dog lover, she’d been a certified groomer for two decades, working on her Husky Coco and Shepherd Rocky, as well as friend’s pets. Unwilling to be sidelined as disabled, she reached out to Community Capital New York for a small business loan of $20,000 to help with the purchase of a state-of-the-pet crate dryer and essential equipment. An unanticipated but much appreciated add-on to the loan was the training and advice Community Capital provided, including cash flow analysis, lease negotiation, inventory management and marketing.

Determined to provide the friendliest of services, she offers seniors a 10% discount. An all-inclusive service starts at $55, depending on the breed and condition of the coat, and includes wash and dry, ear cleaning and nail clipping, and other intimate duties. Even neurotic indulged divas (chewed shoes, separation anxiety) get trimmed down to size. Don’t miss self-service Sundays, when DIY baths are priced low. And her $10 pooch pedicure, making bloody paws a forgettable past time. No shame in drooling.

How did you get your business off the ground?

In 1994 I had two of the hairiest dogs—a Norwegian Elkhound and a Chow– and worked 9-5. I would unwind on the weekends by helping out at my local groomer. After two years, I went for my certification. Mail people are not known for liking dogs. So on my route in Croton I was unusual and known for my dog friendliness. I used to give out dog biscuits and treats. So, when I could no longer work for the post office—I couldn’t lift 75 pound mail sacks, which was a requirement every day—and I didn’t want to be disabled and unemployed, I wanted to turn my sideline into my own business. I was encouraged by those on my route who would say: “My dogs love you.”

How did your business evolve?

Having visited enough groomers and worked in some, I knew what wasn’t going to work. Crates are necessary, and I want all dogs leashed and collared. Dogs should be secured all the time, for their safety. I also knew I wanted a crate dryer, for dogs like Lhasa Poo Sheisi, who is afraid of having his face dried. I wanted to provide an all-inclusive service, so that everything isn’t an “add on.” I also wanted seniors, who are often living on fixed incomes, to have an affordable way to maintain their companions. I rarely have to muzzle a dog, and if the dog is older, with issues like joint problems or fear, I welcome the owners to stay. I have also developed a particularly warm experience protocol for puppies, to get them to feel comfortable and enjoy grooming. To grow the business, I visited local vets and handed out post cards to commuters getting off at Metro North. Area retailers all display my cards. I donated a free grooming and a doggie gift basket to the Hen Hud and local school auctions. I have an active Facebook page, and had 400 views when I posted 18-year old Max’s birthday grooming. I also utilize the Facebook pages of Croton Mom and Dads, the Croton Patch and the Ossining Dog Park. I plan on joining the Chamber of Commerce, and as soon as I can afford to, will sponsor a local Little League team. Dillon O’Keefe, a local high school student artist, did the dog mural in the style of Dr. Seuss, to make the waiting room more dog and owner friendly.

What’s the best advice you got along the way?

From Community Capital’s volunteers and staff: going over how to be a business owner. The business coach (Holly Perlowitz) brought things to my attention I hadn’t thought of, like considering my expenses for marketing and keeping track of all expenses, even down to sharpening clipping blades. I began using Clover, a bookkeeping program affiliated with Wells Fargo, to keep track of my register, inventory, payroll, and all sales reports. It’s great. Community Capital also helped with marketing, suggesting I join the local chamber of commerce, use a chalkboard to highlight specials like the 10% discount for seniors, add dog food to my merchandise mix and portraits of clients to the walls, and ask clients’ owners to post referrals on Angie’s List and social media.

What did you wish you knew?

More about marketing.

When will you know you arrived?

When I’m grooming 10 dogs a day regularly.

 What’s next?

A menu of services. Possibly a dog and owner race in the fall.

Contact Croton’s Pampered Pet, 35 North Riverside Avenue (entrance on Bank Street), Croton on Hudson, NY 10520, 914.862.4009,, email: Facebook: