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Puppy primps

Tony DeAmicis clips Star’s nails at his mobile grooming salon, Bow Wow Meow. Since Star, a Yorkie poodle, was anxious in the beginning, DeAmicis held the dog to calm her. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / FOR THE TIMES

Bow Wow Meow, a mobile grooming business, offers a more convenient way to pamper your favorite furry friend.

Long before Marsha Cipollini and Tony DeAmicis started a business revolving around animals, the mother and son were both animal lovers.

They own 15 pets between them, including numerous formerly homeless cats that Marsha rescued from a North Philadelphia neighborhood several years ago.

So it’s very believable when you hear Cipollini and DeAmicis say that profits are not the first priority for their new Bow Wow Meow mobile grooming business. Rather, the most important thing, they say, is being able to care for the furry residents of the Greater Northeast while accommodating the often hectic schedules of the area’s pet owners.

Cipollini, of Burholme, and DeAmicis, who lives in Mayfair, christened their new mobile grooming facility — a highly modified and lovingly decorated van — late last month. Since then, the buzz has been building about their canine-, feline- and people-friendly business model.

“My slogan is ‘Less stress for you and your pets,’” said Cipollini, a former fitness-center manager who has invested much of her retirement fund into the new venture.

“We don’t have (the animals) in cages for hours. We pick up the dog or cat,” she said. “He goes into the van and then he’s back into the house.”

Mobile pet grooming, though perhaps unfamiliar to many, is not a new concept. In fact, DeAmicis worked for several years as a groom for a suburban-based business linked with a national franchise, but became disillusioned with his employer’s assembly-line approach. In his view, the boss seemed more interested in getting from job to job quickly than in giving top-level care to each client.

DeAmicis wanted to care for pets much like his mom took care of those stray cats in North Philly. Cipollini learned of the animals from her aunt, who lived in the neighborhood and fed them regularly.

When the aunt moved into a nursing home about four years ago, the cats lost their benefactor. So Cipollini took it upon herself to find them better surroundings.

“That’s when I found out how much I love animals,” she said. “It took me about a year to get all of the cats out of the neighborhood. I just couldn’t leave them there. They relied on her to live.”

Cipollini adopted 11 of the cats and found homes for about a dozen more.

In the aftermath of that, she thought about trying to work in an animal hospital, but concluded that she wouldn’t be able to put any of the creatures to sleep. Opening a mobile grooming service was a much better option.

“There aren’t many of them and they’re franchises,” she said. “I decided not to go with a franchise and to do it on my own. This way, I’m not paying a percentage (to a franchiser), I’m doing things my own way and I’m my own boss.”

DeAmicis quit his other grooming job and enrolled at the New York School of Dog Grooming to hone his skills. Now he’s professionally trained to groom all major breeds.

As the financier of the business, Cipollini supported her son through school and shelled out $85,000 for the high-tech van.

The vehicle has an extended rear and raised roof, allowing DeAmicis to stand and work. It has an adjustable grooming table, a large tub with “hydro surge” shampoo system, fresh water system, industrial-power air-conditioning, automated clippers and hair dryer, and a “furminator” device used to remove an animal’s thick undercoat during normal shedding seasons. The van also features a power generator and a solar panel on the roof.

Artist Bob Babst drew the happy dog and cat caricatures depicted on the sides and rear of the big white vehicle, while Cipollini and her friend Joyce Miller meticulously configured the decals.

“My friends have been so supportive of me,” Cipollini said. “My girlfriend and I designed it and the first day (we got it) I burst out crying. It really is a dream come true.”

Fortunately for Cipollini, the permitting process for the business was relatively simple. She has no problems traveling throughout the Northeast and into some suburban communities to serve clients.

In terms of services, Bow Wow Meow has dogs and cats covered from nose to tail. Nail treatments called “pawdicures” are available, along with dental care, bath packages, hand scissoring, clipping and brushing.

DeAmicis specializes in generic cuts and breed-specific styles. All first-time customers are given 20 percent off of normal rates because the operators want to encourage repeat customers for the benefit of the business and the animals.

Cleanliness is crucial for a healthy animal, they say. And keeping pets healthy and happy is their ultimate goal. ••

For information and appointments with Bow Wow Meow, call 215–742–2424 or visit www.BowWowMeowPetmobile.com.

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

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