Hi Paws Dog Grooming Salon officially opened at 439 Monroe Turnpike on Nov. 2 after co-owners, Andrea Bacigalupo and Chris Gonzalez of Monroe, agreed to wait a little longer to tie the knot. Bacigalupo has been in the dog grooming business for four years, working at a place in Stratford for the last two. But Gonzalez, a former natural gas company employee, said his fiancée wanted something more.
“She came home one day and she was sad,” Gonzalez recalled. “We were planning our wedding for May and I said, ‘do you want to open your own dog grooming business or do you want to have a wedding?’ We put off the wedding for a year and used the money for our business. She said, ‘the business will pay for the wedding.'”
Balloons adorned the sign in front of the small white building Saturday and banners beckoned drivers from the road Saturday morning, when Hi Paws held a grand opening celebration with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The event was attended by Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni, Monroe Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth, several chamber members, customers and friends. First Selectman Terry Rooney could not attend, but visited the business with Giovanni on Friday to show his support and wish the owners well.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Giovanni praised Bacigalupo and Gonzalez for their dedication to their profession. “We support them wholeheartedly,” he said.
Giovanni noted how some members of the Monroe Lions Club attended the event, showing the community support for the new business.
Gonzalez said they were grateful for the public support, adding Lee Hossler of the chamber was their biggest advocate.
A raffle was held for a goodie bag for a large dog and another for a small one, as well as grooming giveaways and empanadas were among the snacks and drinks for guests.
Lisa Bryant, of Monroe, brought her leashed Dalmatian, Domino, who is 16-months old. Domino kept trying to sneak a peak at the food on the counter.
“Every now and then I have a dog sitter. She met the couple that owns this and told me about it,” Bryant said of Hi Paws. Looking down at her pet, Bryant added, “I took him for a shampoo and he seemed to have a great experience.”
Ruth and Bryan Hooper, of Trumbull, brought their Scottish terrier, Varric (in this article’s feature photo), to the grand opening.
“We’ve been coming here a couple months,” Bryan said. “They’re fantastic. They’re wonderful. We have three Scotties. The other two have anxiety, so they’re very good with making them comfortable. We took our dogs for grooming, nail-cutting, the whole shebang.”
Nikki Mosello-Peloquin and her husband Alan, of Monroe, brought their playful Bernese Mountain Dog, Beni, who is six-months-old.
Alan said they brought Beni to Hi Paws for a washing and to have his nails cut. “They did well,” Alan said. “He smelled good. He was soft. They were very nice.”
Nikki hung the bouquets of balloons, some shaped like dog bones, while decorating Hi Paws for the occasion Saturday.
Aside from Bacigalupo, Victoria Almeida of Stratford is also a groomer at Hi Paws.
Bacigalupo earned her a certificate from The Academy of Pet Grooming in Manhattan and groomed neighbors’ dogs in her home when she lived in New York City, as well as the pooches of people she met at public parks, for two years, before moving to Connecticut.
Gonzalez and Bacigalupo recently earned CPR and first aid certifications for pets, adding to their credentials.
“Like Ray said, we’re dogs first, more than chasing the big pay day,” Gonzalez said, alluding to comments Giovanni made during the ceremony. “We don’t have more than three dogs at a time.”
An enclosed bathing and drying room has a large metal tub and the grooming table is electric, rising when a dog walks onto it, rather than groomers having to hoist larger dogs up onto a table.
“It rises at a slow pace, so they don’t get scared,” Gonzalez said of the dogs.
Gonzalez and his wife made sure they bought the best hair care products for pets, testing different brands of shampoos and conditioners themselves. If any left their hands dry, they threw it out.
A door with a window adorned with little red hearts leads to the grooming area. A row of dog crates on the floor stood empty.
“Since we’re timed, dogs never go in the crates, because we let the owners know ahead of time when it will be done,” Gonzalez said of grooming sessions. “We’d rather have the owners wait, than the dogs.”
The room has a sink and three electric grooming tables. Bacigalupo created all of the artwork, including a board painted with a black background and covered with hearts and paw prints in different colors.
Upstairs, a Pup Room is an open area for dogs to play, rather than wait in a crate for their owners.