SYCAMORE – Jenny Kingren glanced over at her employee who was kneeling down to dog-level to chat with a client in the lobby of Huckleberry’s Pet Parlor, and said interactions like that remind her how lucky she is to have the type of team she’s built over the past two decades.
“I turned around and all of a sudden it’s been 20 years,” Kingren said Friday. She began the business when she was 26 years old.
Huckleberry’s Pet Parlor, 423 N. Main St. in Sycamore, is now a full-service salon for dogs and cats of all sizes, as well as the occasional rabbit or guinea pig. The parlor offers do-it-yourself pet bathing stations, or trained professionals who bathe, dry and trim pets. Over the years, Huckleberry’s services have expanded and now include a variety of retail items such as food, shampoo, toys and dog cologne, a Monday-through-Friday doggie day care, and 11 suites for boarding dogs of any size.
Kingren is inviting the community to celebrate her 20 years in business at a holiday open house, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7, with 20% off discounts on retail and other items, a pet photo booth with Santa for $12, discounted nail trims for cats and dogs for $10 and a chance to get your Christmas shopping for your furry friend done early.
The pet parlor, which used to be Franklin’s Frame and Art Shop, employs about 15 staff members, full and part time, many of whom have been working for Kingren more than a decade.
All staff receive training and certification through The Dog Gurus, and learn about pet body language and proper handling techniques.
Each dog that comes through the parlor is washed and bathed, then given a custom haircut chosen by their owner, which can sometimes include nail trimming, accessories such as bows or bandannas and even puppy cologne. The dogs can be muzzled, if needed, or given special ear muffs that act similar to compression socks, to help block out noisy equipment and keep stress at a minimum. Dogs also are leashed to the tables to prevent them from jumping off while the groomer works.
On Friday, the dogs seemed calm and content, which Brandi Liebert, 35, who’s been a groomer at Huckleberry’s for 13 years, said is because they’re used to familiar faces.
“We love it here,” Liebert said as she trimmed 2-year-old Max, a Shih Tzu and regular customer. “That’s why so many of us have stayed for so long. I think people can tell we like animals. I think we’re honest and upfront with people and that makes a difference.”
Kingren said she’s a “Sycamore girl at heart.” Her husband and high school sweetheart, Scott Kingren, built all the boarding cages and fences in the day care center. They have two kids, Charlie Kingren, 12, and Josie Kingren, 6. Scott’s dad even had a hand in naming the business.
“My maiden name was Finn, so my father-in-law always called me Huck,” Jenny Kingren said. “Whenever I’d come over and see my husband, he’d always say ‘Hiya Huck, what’s up today?’ When I was going to name the business, he’s like ‘Why don’t you just call it Huckleberry’s?’”
Doggie Daycare dogs must undergo a vetting and application process that gauges aggression or other behavior that may not be suited for group settings, Kingren said. Dogs are introduced slowly to the group, and given a chance to exercise and play throughout the day. Pet parents can drop their dogs off for a half or full day, with rates ranging from $17 to $28 depending on the pass.
Kingren said the day care usually has about 35 dogs a day.
After 20 years in business, Kingren said it’s the community that’s kept her going.
“This is what I love, how my people always talk with the customer and tell them what’s going on,” Kingren said. “We don’t know everything, but we do our best. We see enough and we’re a team. Being in Sycamore, everyone’s always been supportive here.”