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Spiffy Clips Mobile Pet Grooming has suds, will travel around Fargo-Moorhead to groom your dog – InForum

BusinessSpiffy Clips Mobile Pet Grooming has suds, will travel around Fargo-Moorhead to groom your dog - InForum


FARGO — Oakley, a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd, may look like a whip-smart cattle dog, but she might just have the heart of a Kardashian.

When her owner Haley Wahl tells Oakley that she’s going to have a “spa day,” the shepherd immediately perks up. She then parks herself by the door, barking and wagging her tail enthusiastically, until groomer Ariel Kreilkamp rolls into the driveway with her Spiffy Clips Mobile Pet Grooming van.

“She absolutely loves it,” Wahl said.

It’s been a welcome change in behavior, as Oakley used to get extremely nervous about grooming appointments and wouldn’t let the groomer touch her nails.

But Oakley appears to prefer the one-on-one attention and privacy of mobile grooming vs. a busy salon.

“I have dogs that come in here that are terrible in regular salons and here, they’re no problem,” said Kreilkamp, a soft-spoken 32-year-old who started grooming 11 years ago. “It’s just that they’re overstimulated in the salons and this is exactly what they need.”

Kreilkamp seems to be on a roll with her mobile grooming service, which seems to to be less stressful for some pets while also being more convenient for their owners.

 “It’s really good for seniors or moms who can’t really get out easily,” Kreilkamp said.

Maybe that’s how Spiffy Clips has managed to attract 200 “super-regular” customers around Fargo-Moorhead in the two-and-a-half years since Kreilkamp launched her business.

Wahl, a married West Fargo mom with 2-year-old twins and a busy work schedule, appreciates not needing to take Oakley to and from appointments.

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Devon and Haley Wahl are busy with their twins, Haevyn (left) and Lincoln, so appreciate that Spiffy Clips Mobile Grooming is not only less stressful to their Australian shepherd, Oakley, but also makes grooming more convenient.

Contributed / Haley Wahl

After learning their dog’s previous groomer would no longer be available, Wahl began looking online for someone who could offer mobile services.

When she read the positive reviews about Spiffy Clips, she reached out to Kreilkamp. “I never really looked back,” she said. “Ariel is amazing. She’s very professional and she treats Oakley like her own dog.”

The mobile vs. brick-and-mortar debate

A lifetime animal lover, Kreilkamp was born in Valley City and moved with her family to South Carolina when she was young. She enrolled in college to study biology with hopes of someday working with animals. As a way to make money in college, she also trained to become a pet groomer at a chain pet store in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Before long, she’d quit college and started grooming full-time because she realized that was the perfect vocation for her.

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Ariel Kreilkamp’s dog, Clyde, is a championship Standard Poodle at just 1 year old. Here, she uses an electric file to trim up Clyde’s nails in her mobile pet grooming van.

David Samson/The Forum

That was 11 years ago. Kreilkamp moved back to the area in 2020 with aspirations to start her own grooming business.

Although Kreilkamp had long wanted to be a mobile groomer, she contacted the North Dakota Small Business Center to see if that was the smartest route to take. The experts there helped her prepare a business plan and compare the pros and cons of a mobile business versus brick and mortar.

Kreilkamp learned that the down side to a mobile operation was the maintenance of it. But the upside was its flexibility. “I can pick and choose where I want to work,” she said. “If I ever decide to move, I can bring the whole business with me.” 

She also discovered  Wag’N Tails Mobile Conversions, a company in Granger, Indiana, that specializes in building grooming and veterinary-care vans of all sizes.

She ordered the DynaGroom, the company’s most popular model, for $98,000. She then waited half a year for the company to build and winterize the 22-foot-long Ford Transit van.

Once she had the van, Kreilkamp didn’t have to market much to attract customers. She parked in busy areas like grocery store parking lots, where interested pet owners couldn’t miss the white vehicle decorated with bubbles, happy dogs and the Spiffy Clips phone number.

It may not have been hard to find clients, but Kreilkamp still had to navigate the learning curve of a salon-on-wheels.

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Ariel Kreilkamp washes Darla in her mobile pet grooming van. Kreilkamp said she’s had to learn how to use the van’s 50-gallon water tank wisely. She is now able to bathe around five dogs a day off of one tank.

David Samson/The Forum

“It takes a lot of trial and error,” she said. “The first six months were really hard. I had to figure out how the van works, how not to run out of water.” 

Today, she can shampoo, condition and rinse five to six dogs a day on the van’s  50-gallon water tank.

Van stays warm, even at -15 degrees

She moves easily around the compactly appointed van, where nothing seems more than a couple of steps or an arm’s reach away. 

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Darla stands patiently as owner Ariel Kreilkamp grinds down her nails in Kreilkamp’s Spiffy Clips mobile pet-grooming van. The table can adjust to various heights and includes a slide-out ramp to the pet-washing station so Kreilkamp doesn’t need to do as much lifting of heavier dogs.

David Samson/The Forum

A stainless steel grooming table automatically raises and lowers with a foot pedal. 

A ramp pulls out from the table and extends to the raised, stainless steel grooming tub at the back of the van so Kreilkamp doesn’t have to lift every dog.

Cupboards for grooming supplies are located overhead, as is the long hose which allows her to blowdry the dog. 

There’s also a small desk for paperwork, switches to turn on the generator if heat or air are needed, and a rooftop vent if the van gets too warm or humid.

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Ariel Kreilkamp begins shampooing Darla in her mobile pet grooming van. She said she customizes her shampoos for the different dogs and their coats. Darla tends to have allergies, so she uses a hypoallergenic brand.

David Samson/The Forum

The small space makes blow drying extra-noisy, so Kreilkamp wears headphones and the dog gets a Happy Hoodie — a tube of fabric which slides over the dog’s head to protect its ears.

“It kind of makes them look funny but they really work,” Kreilkamp said. “Every dog gets a fresh one, to make sure nothing transfers, especially with that dog flu going around. I  haven’t seen it yet, but I’m not taking any chances.”

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Ariel Kreilkamp drys off Darla, her 12-year-old Golden-Rottweiler-Lab mix, in her mobile pet grooming van. She puts a “Happy Hoodie” over each dog’s ears while drying them as some are frightened by the loud noise of the powerful blowdrier.

David Samson/The Forum

One element dog owners don’t have to worry about is cold. The heater and hot water warm up the small space so quickly that Kreilkamp usually keeps the ceiling vent open.

“A good question I get is ‘Is it warm enough?’” She laughs. “I’m in short sleeves.”

The van stays consistently toasty even when it’s -15 outside, she said. If the mercury falls even more, she’ll either postpone appointments “for safety” or ask owners to bring their dogs to the heated shop in Moorhead where she keeps her van.

Roomy, but not ‘St. Bernard roomy’

While the DynaGroom is efficient and compact, it does have its limitations.

For one thing, she’s busy enough to hire another groomer, but there simply isn’t room.

For another, Kreilkamp learned early on that the van wasn’t built for extra-large dogs. “When I first started, I did do a St. Bernard in here and it couldn’t hardly fit in the tub. It was a mistake,” she recalled, laughing.

Now she sticks to clients who are 50 pounds or less, and only accepts clients in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She also grooms some regular feline clients, but isn’t taking on any new ones.

Although Kreilkamp is already plenty busy, she does maintain a waiting list for future clients. Her rates range from about $110 for a smaller dog, like a Shih Tzu, to $130 for a medium-sized Golden Retriever. Prices are also affected by factors like condition of coat and temperament, she said.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t get any dogs that bite, so that’s kind of nice,” she said.

With business booming, one wonders if she will ever want to invest in one of Wag’N Tails larger vehicles — like a bus or maybe an RV?

“If I got anything else, I might get a second one,” she said. “But that’s far off into the future.”

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