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Business booming for Illinois pet stylist

by BRETT LUSTER Associated Press

ALTON, Ill. - Stephanie Sams can barely keep up with phone calls from customers wanting her to groom their animals, but that's fine with the 29-year-old pet stylist from Jerseyville. She will take the flooded phone lines for the business.

Sams does not operate a website for her business, which has increased in volume by 35 percent in the past nine months, and has been open for more than two years. You cannot even find Lucky Dog Grooming's phone number online.

"A lot of it is word of mouth," she said. "And that's how it kind of blew up. And that's when I kind of needed to take a break for a little bit."

Sams now grooms more than 90 animals per month, including cats, on top of her part-time job at the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis.

One of her best advertisers is a beautician; she takes Sams' cards with her when Sams cuts her dog's hair.

Some people will take her cards and give them to veterinarian clinics. Others will distribute them to their friends. Part of the reason people are coming to her shop is the lack of pet grooming competition in the Alton area, Sams said.

Another reason could be some of the zany pooch cuts she creates. Sams said some dog owners want a style that is a little out there.

"No promises but I'll try it and we'll see what it looks like," she said. "And if they don't like it, then we can change it next time."

Sams gave her own dog, Yettie, a mohawk and dyed its hair blue. She trimmed a shih tzu to have a Fu Manchu-style mustache, and Frost the Pomeranian looked like a fox after Sams was through.

Sams considers herself an artist and takes a lot of before and after pictures.

"To see where they were before and then afterward is a big difference," she said.

All of her aunts are hairdressers in her native Jerseyville. One of them, who operated a boutique out of her basement, gave Sams some inspiration.

Sams branched out on her own and she's satisfied with a job done well. Besides trimming animals up, she also gives dogs a personal touch supplying them with bandannas and bows she makes herself.

"I like making them look good and then the owner is happy when I am done," she said.

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