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 haven’t stopped,” Cote told The Breeze. “I spent every bit of that $2,000 and I made it. I made it through.”
Now, after 45 years of trimming and styling Woonsocket’s pets, Debbie’s Pet Salon on Front St. will be closing its doors. Cote has been struggling with carpal tunnel and arthritis in her hands for the previous year or so, she told The Breezeand it’s finally time.
She built her business on walk-ins and word-of-mouth reviews, said her husband, Jim.
After Cote graduated high school, she was looking for ways to work with animals. Following a stint working with a veterinarian, she said she realized she actually wanted to style animals. She learned how to do her family poodle’s hair, and she was off to the breeds.
“A lot of dog owners, I did their parents’ dogs, too,” Cote said. She’s been a pillar of the community’s grooming services for so long that she’s inherited clients generation to generation. She’s even had clients leave animals to her in their will.
“And I kept them ’til the end,” Cote said. She and her husband care for many animals, including three dogs, a few birds that senior clients have given her, cats, axolotls, and turtles.
One client told her that in preparation for Cote’s closing, she took two of her dogs to another groomer.
“Half an hour later, they had to go pick them up because they couldn’t touch them. They said they were vicious,” Cote said. “And they’re not, they’re not. I get a lot of dogs where no one else can touch them.”
Cote even makes regular trips to high-rises to cut a senior resident’s pet’s nails, and other house calls when people who have dogs can’t get in the car.
“After work I run around with nail clippers and cut nails. I can’t say no,” Cote said.
The hardest part about closing for Cote is that she’s unsure how some of her clients will maintain their pet’s grooming once her salon is closed. Throughout the years, she’s always kept her prices reasonable so that it’s easy for clients to schedule their dogs for regular grooming, she said.
“It’s painful. I know a lot of clients who can’t afford a lot of other prices, and it’s bothering me to no end,” she said while rubbing the hands that have 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 her mother did.
“I wasn’t here to get rich, I was here to help. Mom instilled that in us,” Cote explained. Her mother was a single parent who loved crafting and passed away in 2006. Cote keeps a picture of her at her grooming station, and knows that she’s there with her.
Cote’s other business, Butterfly Unique Handmade Gifts & Crafts in Uxbridge, Mass., was opened in her mother’s memory. Despite the pet salon’s closure, the craft store will remain open.
“I went to a medium six months after she passed,” Cote said. “She said that she was grateful that I’d adopted three children, and that she’ll always be fluttering around all the time. I went home and sat in the backyard and watched the kids play with a butterfly. And I’ve noticed now that whenever I have a down moment, butterflies will appear, even in the cold.”
Debbie’s Pet Salon will close its doors on May 28.