Clients of Jen Fornasier undergo a transformation every time they visit.
They go from a shaggy, matted, dirty mess to clean cut, nice-smelling, very good dogs.
Fornasier is the owner of Cuddle Cravers Dog Baths, a dog grooming shop on Hurontario Street, and it’s a career she first fell in love with while still in high school.
She attended high school in Toronto and completed a co-op placement at Top Dogs Grooming in Toronto. The owner of the Top Dogs liked working with Fornasier so much she hired her after her co-op ended. After one and a half years working there, Fornasier moved to Collingwood and started attending Georgian College in Barrie for the Ski Resort Operations Program.
Though Fornasier grew up in Toronto, her family travelled to Collingwood most weekends to ski at Craigleith Ski Club.
Though Fornasier spent some time in the restaurant business after college, she returned to dog grooming about four years ago working for Buck Mickiewicz, the former owner of Cuddle Cravers.
“I get to be with dogs all day,” said Fornasier. “My customers are always happy. People are … let’s call it … moody. This is a really happy workplace and I always want to come to work ... it's very satisfying to see the dog get all cleaned up.”
Fornasier took over ownership of the business from Mickiewicz two years ago. Other than learning how to file taxes, she said it hasn’t been much of an adjustment.
Cuddle Cravers offers full or self-serve dog grooming, and their regular service includes a haircut, bath, nail trim and blow dry (about 1.25 to 1.5 hours per dog). If the dog can resist rolling in something particularly potent, Fornasier said they can smell nice for up to three weeks after their visit to Cuddle Cravers.
She uses all-natural cleaning products in her shop because that’s what she likes to use herself. She doesn’t cage the dogs before or after their grooming, instead, she uses short gates to keep them in the store where they are free to explore and give out doggy kisses to any visiting humans.
Over time, Fornasier said she’s become more adept as a groomer. She learned early how to read dogs and making things easier for her four-legged clients. She’s been bitten three times, but she said it’s a job hazard.
“Chefs get cut, we get bit,” she laughs.
She has a few difficult dogs to handle in her regular client rotation, but every day is different.
“I would rather deal with an aggressive dog than with an aggressive person,” she said.
This is Cuddle Craver’s tenth year in business, Fornasier celebrated the store’s anniversary at the end of April. She credits the store’s happy environment for its ability to last in the business.
“I think it’s mostly the atmosphere,” she said. “We are always chit-chatting, and communicating with people who come in to use the self-serve equipment.”
It’s not unlike a hair salon, except there’s a few more “good boys/girls” and pats on the head, and there are two smiling shop dogs making rounds to check on the groomers and their clients.
Banksy and Dexter are two of Fornasier’s three dogs, and they come to work with her every day. Between rounds, they take naps in the store windows and watch people walk by on Hurontario Street.
Fornasier said she’s inspired by a dog’s ability to be carefree.
“They’re just happy,” she said. “Even dogs that have had a horrible start in life, they just live in the moment. They teach us what unconditional love is and some humans learn from it, others don’t.”
Cuddle Cravers is located at 218 Hurontario Street. Click here for the Facebook page.