A hairy situation

Rhianne Chalmers and her dog Sully

While attending school, Rhianne Chalmers started a part-time job as a dog groomer and quickly fell in love with the job. She worked as a groomer for nearly six years before opening her own shop in Kilworth-Komoka last summer. She was driven to succeed and the business was already seeing encouraging signs when the pandemic hit. And then, suddenly, she had to close because of the government-mandated shutdown.

“I was really scared,” says Rhiannne. “I had just opened my business and was already closing my doors. I was paying rent on my shop, a mortgage on my home and I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay closed. I also had no other source of income.”

Rhianne was exhausted and beginning to doubt her dreams of running her own business. To make matters worse, Bark of the Town did not qualify for any short-term government assistance. Like many others, she relied on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to make ends meet. 

Fortunately, her clients provided some much-needed motivation during the lockdown. “I was so grateful for the uplifting messages clients were sending me; some even offered to prepay for future grooming appointments. I felt overwhelmed by the community’s patience and generosity.”

After two months of uncertainty, stress, and planning, Rhianne was finally able to open up again near the end of May. She worked around the clock to get ready for the opening, introducing several measures to comply with government safety protocols relating to the pandemic. And then she had roughly two months of grooming appointments to catch up on the backlog of hairy dogs in desperate need of a haircut.

The pandemic came with a silver living for Rhianne. During the surge of appointments after the lockdown, she decided that she needed some extra help at the salon. An associate named Jessica Perfect, who owns a company called Hound & Hair and sells merchandise at Rhianne’s store, graciously offered to help during the busy period. But Jessica soon became an integral part of Bark of the Town and is now officially Rhianne’s first employee. 

Rhianne has a newfound appreciation for the way people around have stepped up to help in a challenging time. She’s glad to be back doing what she loves and now she has a tail to tell.

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