Two Harbors, Minn. — Big Dog Car and Pet Wash is the newest business in Two Harbors. It's right on the busy highway going through town. Two brothers named Mark and Wade LeBlanc own Big Dog. They own two other car washes, three convenience stores, an oil and propane supply company, and a plumbing business. This is their first pet wash.
Mark LeBlanc says they got the idea when they were shopping for equipment.
"The car wash people suggested it," he says. "It didn't take up a whole lot of room, and it kind goes hand-in-hand with the car wash. It's self-serve. Just quarters. It's like a miniature self-serve car wash."
The pet washing station has its own corner inside the car wash. LeBlanc plunks four quarters into a slot on the pet wash control panel.
"We've just got a little selector like you would on a self-serve wash," LeBlanc says, as he gives a twist to a black plastic knob. "We've got shampoo, conditioner, rinse. Then the dryer. It's even got a skunk remover. It's a chemical that goes on there that neutralizes the skunk smell."
The pet washing platform is about waist-high on a human. A ramp leads to the platform so animals can walk right up, but LeBlanc says his golden retriever, Sadie, is too old to scrabble up on her own. He lifts her into the shiny, stainless steel the tub.
LeBlanc gives Sadie a good soaking with the sprayer. He gets himself a little wet, but most of the water stays in the tub and runs down the drain.
"What it reminds me of is a big kitchen sink at a restaurant," LeBlanc says.
Sadie is 80 pounds of the calmest dog you've ever seen. Mark LeBlanc lathers up her back, and rinses her down, and she makes no protest. She goes through her bath with an "Oh well..." look on her face.
LeBlanc says it takes four quarters just to start the machine running.
"Two minutes and forty seconds for a dollar," he says as he finishes rinsing Sadie's back."The more quarters you put in, the longer it'll go."
LeBlanc says a thorough wash, with shampoo, conditioner, de-skunkifier, and the dryer, takes more than two minutes and forty seconds. The whole shebang might take five bucks in quarters.
LeBlanc fires up the dryer - a hose that shoots a jet of warm air. The dog looks tolerant. The human looks like he's having a good time.
"My little boy, he's seven," LeBlanc says. "He's excited about it."
Perhaps Sadie will be clean - and hairless - by the end of the summer.
"That's a possibility," LeBlanc says with a big laugh.
The pet washing station just opened this week, and LeBlanc says folks in Two Harbors are 'interested.'
"People stop in and say, 'I just got to see what it looks like,'" LeBlanc says.
He's had a few customers scrub up their dogs.
"There was two or three people last night, and I did my dog here today," LeBlanc says.
But some folks in Two Harbors are skeptical. LeBlanc says one local stopped by early in the week.
"He said, 'You guys are the stupidest people I know. We've had a pet wash in Two Harbors for years. It's called Burlington Bay, and throw Fido a stick,'" LeBlanc recalls with a chuckle.
Minnesota is now home to several self-service pet washes. Mark LeBlanc says he and his brother don't have plans to open more, yet, but he figures other entrepreneurs will.
As you might expect, California claims to be the birthplace of self-service pet washing. There's even a national franchise based in Burbank, Calif. called, U-Wash-Doggie.