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Pet Pampering: Ironton’s The BARKer shop offers spa treatment for those four-legged family members

The clients at Kate and Tony Barker’s shop never complain about their haircuts. And while they never even bother to check a mirror before walking out the door, they do sometimes drool and occasionally bark.

The Barkers are the owners of The BARKer Shop, a dog grooming business and obedience school in downtown Ironton.

The shop, which has been open since 2006, is the realization of a lifelong dream for Kate.

“It’s always been my dream to open my own grooming shop,” Kate said. “Where else can you bring your dogs to work everyday?”

Kate was originally planning to run the shop by herself, but when the store was booked shortly after opening, she had to call for reinforcement. Tony was working as a funeral director at the time.

“(Tony) quit his job and since then it’s been growing and growing,” Kate said.

These days the business stays booked about two months in advance and grooms about 23 to 25 dogs everyday. They also offer obedience-training classes once a week.

Besides the dog grooming business, Kate also grooms dogs competitively. She recently took third place at an international dog grooming competition in Chicago.

“I know people who have been doing it for six or seven years and haven’t even placed at all and it’s my second show in Chicago and I got third. I was very happy,” Kate said.

Tony helps his wife prepare for the shows.

“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes type of guy. I don’t like to be out front,” he said.

Kate has big dreams when it comes to competitive grooming. She hopes to one-day grace the cover of Groomer to Groomer magazine, an honor reserved for the best of the best in the industry. To do so with her dog Boaz, a giant schnauzer, would be an even more unusual feat.

“A giant schnauzer that I know of has never been on the cover,” she said.

The husband and wife, who are 27 and 30-years-old respectively, have been married nine years and are expecting their first child.

The couple enjoys working together. Each of them has a different skill set and handles a different aspect of the business –Tony takes care of marketing and advertising, while Kate enjoys working with people.

“We complement each other,” Tony said.

The two have worked hard — a fact not lost on BARKer Shop customers, Kate said.

“I think a lot of customers see that and they like that,” she said. “We’ve stayed late hours, and come in early. We put everything into our business and it’s paid off.”