A new Downtown dog-o-mat

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October 26, 2009
By: Amanda Kushner
Amanda Kushner
// North Loop entrepreneur unveils new self-serve dog wash //

Walk away with a clean dog, and leave all the mess behind.

That’s the idea behind Ollu Self-Serve Dog Wash, 221 Main Street SE, inspired by two of Ollu owner Jodel Fesenmaier’s dogs — Oliver and Lulu.

 “I wouldn’t be running this store if they hadn’t been a part of my life,” she said. And that’s why when it came time to choose a name for the self-serve dog wash she named it after her two black labs.


Squeaky clean


Pet owners have a number of options at Ollu. When they walk in, no appointment necessary, they’ll see a television showing pictures of customer’s dogs and a retail store with lots of savory dog treats, grooming products and some leashes. Owners can then choose a basic self-serve wash, drop their dog off to be washed or have their dogs washed and groomed, she said. If customers choose the self-serve option they’ll receive towels, professional shampoos, an ear wash, toothbrush and a rubber brush. If the customer chooses the self-serve option they’ll approach one of five washing stations where the stainless steel commercial bathing sized tubs are waist high, so owners can stand while getting their dogs squeaky clean.

Customers can also choose upgrades including specialty shampoos and conditioners. After the wash customers will walk away from the mess and move to the drying room where warm air, which doesn’t have a heating element, is used to dry the dog’s coats.

Fesenmaier was eco-conscious while purchasing shampoos, which are biodegradable. Also she made an extra effort to be environmentally friendly while building Ollu. For example she used energy efficient building supplies, will have florescent bulbs and the water won’t run at the stations unless the pet owner is holding down a trigger.

In her retail store 90 percent of the items are either locally produced within the Midwest or the United States and use environmentally friendly materials.


Making her vision a reality

After Fesenmaier finished college she moved to San Diego, where she adopted littermates Oliver and Lulu two and half years ago. Then, eight weeks ago Fesenmaier added another member to her family when she adopted a Great Dane, Axel. Fesenmaier thought taking her dogs to the self-serve dog wash in San Diego was fun, and her presence calmed the dogs.

“They loved it because it was me washing them,” she said.

So when she moved back to Minneapolis, Fesenmaier was disappointed to learn that there weren’t any self-serve dog washes in the area, and she decided she eventually wanted to start one.

So Fesenmaier had the idea in mind, and she worked on it as a hobby, but it wasn’t until she was laid off from her job at a developer that she decided to push forward with Ollu.

She then apprenticed with a grooming salon to learn about grooming shops and safety issues.

Julie Hiller, owner of Shampooch, a grooming salon in Hopkins said Fesenmaier did groom dogs that didn’t need hair trims and took appointments during her apprenticeship. Hiller said she thinks what Fesenmaier learned in the industry, including what is needed of different coat types, will be valuable and will allow Fesenmaier to offer customers advice.

Hiller expects Ollu to do well, and said it’s a great idea.

“People are always looking to do something like that and their just isn’t a place to do that,” Hiller said. “You can go to a Petco and do it, but it’s just not the same.”

Fesenmaier has a calm demeanor with animals, and she’s both professional and personal, Hiller said.

She researched online, and also consulted with the self-serve dog washes she used to use in San Diego.

Fesenmaier lives in the North Loop and searched that neighborhood for a location for Ollu. But Fesenmaier walked her own pooches in the St. Anthony Main area and realized that it’s where a lot of people walk their pups too.

Fesenmaier’s mother, who adopted Oliver, will be working at her side as an assistant. She also hired another assistant and a full-service groomer, Heidi Baroun.

Baroun has been a groomer for 11 years, and she is excited for the social atmosphere at Ollu, where she thinks she’ll be able to connect with her clients and their dogs more than at a standard groomer. She hopes the open relationship will give customers the opportunity to ask her questions and become more comfortable leaving their dogs when they come back for a grooming.

“What I like about Jodel’s shop is that the full-service grooming is staying small, so I feel like the focus on grooming is really going to be on the dogs and the clients,” Baroun said.

Ollu is $20 per wash while dogs less than 10 pounds cost $5 less and dogs above 90 pounds cost $5 more. Starting the weekend of Oct. 24 Ollu will be open 10 a.m–7 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Ollu’s grand opening weekend will be Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and will include a Halloween costume contest, free treats and $5 off a self-serve wash.