WOONSOCKET – At 19, Deb Cote approached her mother and told her she wanted to open her own pet grooming salon.
“She gave me $2,000 and I started, and I didn’t stop,” Cote said. The breeze. “I spent every penny of that $2,000 and I did it. I succeeded.
Now, after 45 years of sizing and styling Woonsocket’s pets, Debbie’s Pet Salon on Front St. will close its doors. Cote has been suffering from carpal tunnel and arthritis for about a year, she said. The breezeand it’s finally time.
She built her business on walk-ins and word-of-mouth reviews, her husband, Jim, said.
After graduating from high school, Cote was looking for ways to work with animals. After working with a vet, she said she realized she actually wanted to do animal hair. She learned to groom her family’s poodle and went shopping.
“A lot of dog owners, I’ve done their parents’ dogs too,” Cote said. She has been a mainstay of community grooming services for so long that she has inherited clients from generation to generation. She has even asked clients to leave pets for her in their wills.
“And I kept them until the end,” Cote said. She and her husband take care of many animals, including three dogs, a few birds given to her by elderly clients, cats, axolotls and turtles.
A client told her that in preparation for Côté’s closure, she had taken two of her dogs to another groomer.
“Half an hour later they had to go get them because they couldn’t touch them. They said they were vicious,” Cote said. “And they are not, they are not. I get a lot of dogs where no one else can touch them.
Côté even makes regular trips to high-rises to trim the nails of an elderly resident’s pet and other home visits when people with dogs can’t get in the car.
“After work, I run around with nail clippers and cut my nails. I can’t say no,” Cote said.
The hardest part of the closure for Côté is that she doesn’t know how some of her clients will maintain their pet’s grooming once her salon closes. Over the years, she’s always kept her prices reasonable so it’s easy for clients to schedule their dogs for regular grooming, she said.
“It’s painful. I know a lot of customers who can’t afford to pay a lot of other prices, and that bothers me a lot,” she says, rubbing her hands which also come to bother her.
For Cote, the past 45 years haven’t been about high profit margins, but about helping others in the same spirit as her mother.
“I wasn’t there to get rich, I was there to help. Mom instilled that in us,” Cote explained. Her mother was a single mother who loved crafts and died in 2006. Côté keeps a photo of her at her grooming station and knows she is there with her.
Cote’s other business, Butterfly Unique Handmade Gifts & Crafts in Uxbridge, Mass., was opened in memory of her mother. Despite the closure of the pet store, the craft shop will remain open.
“I went to a medium six months after he died,” Côté said. “She said she was grateful that I adopted three children, and that she will always be twirling around all the time. I came home and sat in the garden and watched the children play with a butterfly. And I’ve noticed now that whenever I have a moment of depression, butterflies appear, even in the cold.
Debbie’s Pet Salon will be closing May 28.