Couple Does Dirty Jobs Together
Editor’s Note: In an age of computers and mechanization, workplaces are cleaner than ever. But there are some jobs that can’t be outsourced or handled by machine. Some jobs require someone to do them who isn’t afraid to get dirty to get the job done. In this feature series, we’ll highlight the hardworking men and women in Portage County who do the dirty work—the dirties jobs that make our world run a little easier, keeps it cleaner, and who may not get the kind of recognition they deserve.
by Lisa Pett
York and Joliene Heiden work more closely than most married couples. The pair run their respective businesses, River West Grooming and River West Motorwerks out the same small shop in Plover.
Both York and Joliene attended UWSP, Joliene a zoology student and York a sociology student with a knack for tinkering with cars. Their roundabout journey started- and ended- in Stevens Point.
Joliene began managing a kennel for the Humane Society and York began a career as an auto mechanic. The couple married and moved away from Stevens Point, but not before she got experience grooming some of the neglected stray animals at the shelter. She eventually went to school and became certified as a groomer in 2000 by the Wisconsin School of Professional Pet Grooming.
While York took a mechanic job at a Volkswagon dealership, both were building the skills and experience that would lead to their current business and location.
“York didn’t really enjoy the corporate culture at the dealership,” Joliene said. “And I was grooming part-time. I never in a million years thought I would end up in a career grooming dogs, but vet techs are not paid a lot and I could groom part-time as well.”
“Some people think dog grooming is a foofy job. But it’s actually really physical work,” said Joliene, adding she often lifts 30-40 pound dogs in and out of a sink and on to the grooming table. Larger breeds get showered on the floor by the drain and groomed on the floor.
“Some groomers will not work on large breeds like Newfoundlands or Great Pyreneese; you’re talking about 100 pounds of dog,” she said. “Most of the dogs are pretty patient, though.”
The two clients in her care this week, Mia the Cocker and Lily the Labradoodle were quietly accepting of her attentions as she cleaned ears, trimmed coats and toenails. By the end, Joliene was wet from the spray hose and covered in dog hair- and so was this reporter. But her charges were clean, trim, and warmed by the dryers next to their cages.
By 2008 the young couple had a growing family to raise but they took a chance when a location opened up in Plover. The building had housed a barber shop and an exhaust shop so, while it was small, it had most of the infrastructure needed to house both their businesses.
The cages to hold the dogs, the bathing sink and the grooming table were added to the small back room while York began specializing in servicing foreign cars in the garage. The businesses share the cramped office in the entryway of the building.
Joliene grooms four to five dogs a day, four days a week, while York employs four mechanics in the shop. Both businesses have worked hard to build up clientele.
“Customer service is a huge part of the job, so people skills are important,” said York. “Auto mechanics has changed a great deal, as more cars are computerized. But the job is still very hands-on and very dirty.”
The challenges of working so closely with a spouse means that there is little separation between home and work.
“Sometimes,” said Joliene, “the dinner conversation was about ordering car parts.”
“It’s not always easy,” said York. When it’s hot outside, it’s hot in here. When it’s cold outside, it’s cold in here. But the best part is that I get to see my wife every day.”
River West Grooming and River West Motorwerks can be found at 2584 Post Road, Plover and on Facebook. The grooming phone number is 715-321-DOGS (3647) and service phone is 715-342-4886.