KINGMAN - When Dianne Cook had to move her dog grooming business out of her home in the Hualapai Mountain foothills due to health department regulations, she picked an 1,100-square-foot empty space on Beale Street in downtown Kingman, a couple of doors down from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop and across from a vacant storefront.
Cook, a single mother of two who moved to Kingman almost five years ago from Texas, saw plenty of upside in opening The Paw Spa at 206 E. Beale St., and she was encouraged by other business owners in the area to locate downtown.
"I came downtown because there's no other (grooming) shops," Cook said as she styled Sophie, a Pomeranian making her first trip to The Paw Spa. "I shop downtown and I know other business owners down here who said they need a shop.
"I see a lot of people walking their dogs and stop in and say, 'I didn't know you were here. We really needed something like this.' That's how a lot of people found me."
The Paw Spa opened at the end of August and handles about 20 dogs a week, some of them from past clientele. With more than 30 years' experience as a groomer, Cook worked at a national pet supply store before opening her own business a couple of years ago.
She invested about $10,000 to start up her small business, including business license renewal, health department permit, fire inspection, plumbing work with hair traps and backflow prevention, equipment and bathtubs for small and big dogs.
Born in Needles, Calif., and raised in Wyoming, Cook said she's always been community-minded and that's one thing she likes about the downtown business environment. Business owners support each other and display cards and fliers advertising each other's events.
The Paw Spa provides free bathing and grooming for the Western Arizona Humane Society.
"It makes me feel good that I give the Humane Society dogs a grooming and within a couple days, they have a home," Cook said.
Other business openings, such as the Garlic Clove restaurant and Beale Street Brews coffee shop, show that downtown Kingman is going through a growth spurt, she said.
Her daughter is a sophomore at Lee Williams High School and walks to work at the grooming shop after school.
Cook said she loves Kingman and that it's much healthier for her son, who has asthma, than southeast Texas.
"I spent time here as a kid. I learned to swim in the Colorado River. I take the kids to Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu. I love the desert. The rain smells fresh and clean here," Cook said.
Grooming services at The Paw Spa range from $35 for small dogs to $70 for big dogs, and a painted window advertises nail trimmings for $5 every day. It's not always easy, and Cook takes her time by using a file instead of clippers.
"I'm firm and consistent and I basically have one rule for the dogs in my shop: I always win," Cook said. "I'm going to successfully get that dog from start to finish and not traumatize the dog. Sometimes it takes longer. If it's freaked out, I give it a break. Let it rest. Just take my time and get to know the dog and let the dog get to know me. I don't send a dog home unfinished."
Joan Weaver of Golden Valley came in to pick up Sophie and Molly. She was new to the area, moving from Mohave Valley because it was too hot. She had been taking her dogs to a shop in Bullhead City, and then she saw The Spa Paw ad.
"I look for overall cleanliness," Weaver said. "I'll take the dogs in and see how the grooming's done and if I like it. Everybody has a different style."
Cook said she never turns away any breed of dog or cat because each should be judged individually. Some of the most well-behaved dogs she's groomed are pit bulls, she said.