A natural groom: The Green Groomer in Northampton focuses on environmentally friendly products


Staff Writer

Published: 05-04-2022 4:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Hannah Yilmaz and her dog Leo, a 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, went to The Green Groomer for the first time on Monday. Yilmaz said Leo has had traumatic experiences with corporate groomers, including the unnecessary removal of a nail, and she wanted him groomed without chemicals that could irritate his “very sensitive” skin.

“I have to go to the vet a lot. He’s on medication because the tip of his tail was completely bald and he chewed it to the point it was bleeding everywhere,” Yilmaz said, adding that even though she takes care of him at home, Leo was last professionally groomed about five months ago.

“I’d like to bring him more frequently, but he just hates it so much,” she said.

Three groomers work at the 123 Hawley St. location, each caring for one dog at a time on an appointment-only basis, and owner Russell Brooks said he is hoping to hire a fourth to help keep up with the steady business.

A multi-instrumental musician who performs under the stage name Lord Russ, Brooks lay on the floor and played with Leo for several minutes while another dog, Blossom, was getting her finishing touches from groomer Dinorah Best. “He loves it here,” Yilmaz said of Leo. “He’s never acted like this. He clearly trusts the environment, which is good. … I usually have to drag him into these places.”

Brooks said the COVID-19 pandemic cut down on his ability to perform live, and during the months when all nonessential businesses were ordered to close, he kept himself afloat in part by selling vegan savory pies out of his home. But as the pandemic lengthened and businesses started opening again, it became clear that plenty of people were still buying or rescuing dogs and his grooming business saw a prolonged climb.

The Green Groomer’s claim to fame since its opening in 2015 has been its use of environmentally friendly grooming, cleaning and hygiene products — the harshest chemical in the shop is Windex, used only rarely when vinegar won’t suffice for cleaning windows, and the toilet paper is 100% recycled — along with what Brooks described as a humane approach to stressed-out dogs.

“I think we’re pretty unique,” Brooks said. “I would hope that there is a movement toward treating the dogs better. Unfortunately, I don’t see a giant wave of businesses going green or trying to go green.”

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Brooks, a vegan and Massachusetts native, said he and his wife moved to Florida in 2009 and he tried to find work as a veterinary technician, but he struck out and decided to take a job as a dog groomer. He learned grooming from the world-renowned Jonathan David in Boca Raton, Florida, who counted drummer Jason Bonham among his clients, Brooks said.

Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, would drive his dogs to the shop in a Lamborghini convertible and they would arrive with wind-blown hair, Brooks said.

Although he was thrilled to learn from a famous groomer, the experience “also showed me that I didn’t want to use all the chemicals,” he said. “I don’t want to cage-dry. It makes me uncomfortable doing all these things to animals, so my big motto is, ‘I wouldn’t do anything to a dog that I wouldn’t do to myself.’”

Cage-drying involves confining a wet dog under what Brooks described as “a hot wind tunnel” for an hour or more; some groomers might use that hour to work with other dogs, but Brooks said the experience can leave a dog “traumatized.”

Brooks said it would take about 90 minutes to give Leo the works. Best, a professional viola player who said she cuts and styles her own hair “in the comfort of my own home,” said many clients ask her to give their dogs mohawks.

“I don’t like the corporate scene,” Best said. “What stood out to me [about The Green Groomer] was the natural products he uses. I really don’t like messing a lot with a dog’s fur and the pH balance or anything like that, so all of these extra colognes and stuff? I’m really thankful that he doesn’t use [them] on our dogs.”

Prices are determined by the breed of the dog. A Yorkie or a Maltese would cost an average of $55-$60 while grooming the much larger Newfoundland carries an average price of $125 or more. A portion of the salon’s proceeds is donated to environmental and animal-friendly causes.

Each groom comes with a bath and shampoo, a hand dry, nail cutting, pad shaving, gentle ear cleaning and plucking, expression of anal glands, a haircut and brushout, and a blueberry vanilla facial.