Palace of puppy dreams Carly Reimer and Nikki Carruthers are building high-end pet studio Neon Dragon to pamper dogs and realize their entrepreneurial dreams

Imagine a room of velvet couches, a chandelier and a bar serving beer and wine. Not for you — for your dog.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/03/2022 (192 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Imagine a room of velvet couches, a chandelier and a bar serving beer and wine. Not for you — for your dog.

Small pooches might be lying on the hot pink Wayfair cushions, or in a custom-built napping cot. Toto and Fluffy may be asking the bartender for more soup broth in their beer can or wine glass; otherwise, they could be lapping up fresh water in a nearby bowl.

Pomeranians and chihuahuas may have their eyes glued to a TV screen. Freshly trimmed Yorkies might chase each other around the room’s perimeter. Across the hall, a dog could be getting bathed and styled.

This is the vision of Carly Reimer and Nikki Carruthers, owners of The Neon Dragon, a new pet studio.

“This is our little baby,” Reimer said of 3075 Ness Ave., which was under construction on a recent Monday.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Neon Dragon ‘is our little baby,’ says Carly Reimer, with co-owner Nikki Carruthers with their dogs Peep and Viper. The Ness Avenue pet studio is set to open its doors later this spring.

She and Carruthers sat in the bright pink finishing room, where canines will be taken once their coats have been lathered down and dried off.

The two have worked in the dog grooming and caretaking industry for over a decade. Recently, they decided to bring their dream of a luxury dog studio to life.

There’s the black-walled K9 ultra lounge, The Neon Dragon’s version of a doggy daycare. Along with the couches and cots, there will be scheduled activity time for guests and — as the name suggests — neon lights, the co-owners say.

Pet owners can buy their dogs a makeover, complete with grooming, ear plucking, berry facials, aloe nose treatments, cologne and a finished photo, if they choose.

“We love big dogs. We just wanted to make a safe space for the little guys to play.”
– Carly Reimer

The grooming side is open to dogs of all sizes. However, only those 30 pounds and lighter can get a spot in the ultra lounge.

“We love big dogs,” Reimer said. “We just wanted to make a safe space for the little guys to play.”

She and Carruthers are operating based on past experience. Old work horror stories are shaping The Neon Dragon — or, rather, they’re reminding the owners of what they don’t want their business to be.

Carruthers switched from hairdressing to dog grooming around 2010.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Nikki Carruthers’ dog Viper.

“(Hairdressing) wasn’t my passion,” Carruthers said, adding she didn’t envision owning a salon, so she didn’t see room to grow.

A friend suggested Carruthers switch to dog grooming. Soon, four-legged friends were running around her workplace instead of two-footed clients.

Reimer joined the same doggy daycare and grooming salon in 2012, fresh out of college with a graphic design diploma.

“I graduated and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do graphic design,’” Reimer said. “I’m creative and I love animals, so I just applied at every dog place I possibly could.”

Carruthers trained Reimer on the scissors and clippers, and a bond formed. Over the next decade, the two bounced between job sites, often working with one another.

“We just realized, none of the things other people do is how we want to run (a business),” Carruthers said.

In one location, groomers did their work in the middle of a noisy daycare.

Daniel Crump Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Carly Reimer’s dog Peep.

“We literally (couldn’t) hear,” Carruthers said of the barking. “We don’t want an environment like that for the dogs.”

She cited a lack of activities for animals — besides running — as another problem. And, safety was a major concern.

Carruthers said she brought her Pomeranian and Italian greyhound to a job site that housed much larger pets.

“I was just stressed out because we don’t know these dogs,” she said, adding she recalled an incident in 2021 where a Siberian husky killed two small dogs at a Winnipeg pet care business.

Last September, Reimer spotted a listing for a former pet studio. She nudged Carruthers, and the two browsed the property.

They realized owning a company could be “hard, but not too hard,” Reimer said.

“We were just like, ‘OK, we’re done moving around. Let’s make our own,’” she said.

The pair settled on the Ness Avenue location and set the ground rules, including a firm stance against large dogs in their lounge. One side will be for dogs 10 pounds and under, while the other — which is physically separated — will contain those 11 to 30 pound.

There won’t be an outdoor space for the animals. This eliminates the risk of pets jumping a fence or being hit by a car, the owners said. Instead, there are designated potty areas inside.

Steps away from the grooming stations and daycare spot is what Reimer and Carruthers dub the selfie lounge.

“A lot of dogs have their own Instagram accounts,” Reimer said. “I would love to do that all day, just take pictures of me and my dogs.”

For a price — starting at $33 an hour for a person and their pet — customers can use the room, with its props and lighting equipment, for photo opportunities.

‘We thought it’d be really cool if, after a groom, people could come in there (with their pets),” Reimer said, adding people could bring other animals, like lizards, to take pictures.

The Neon Dragon plans to host critter nights, where staff will cut the nails of hamsters, rabbits and other small creatures.

The waiting list for The Neon Dragon’s services is already growing, Reimer said. Its doors will open later this spring, if construction stays on schedule, she added.

For now, the duo will post updates — and photos of their dogs — on their website and social media pages.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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