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South Boston Online
  Friday, March 6, 2015
South Boston Online
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Another New Business on Broadway
By Rick Winterson

     “The Broadway Dog Spa” at 547 East Broadway was started up an even two months back by South Boston resident Michelle McDonnell.  She’s accepting new canine clients in anticipation of spring weather, when dog grooming season kicks into high gear.


     Sometimes, we are amazed at the number of entrepreneurs in South Boston who are motivated to open their own businesses.  One of these ambitious people is Michelle McDonnell.  On December 16, 2005, she opened “The Broadway Dog Spa” at 547 East Broadway.  If you are having trouble visualizing that address, it was the campaign headquarters of City Council President Michael Flaherty before Michelle moved in.

     Michelle brings 22 years of dog grooming experience to her new enterprise.  After graduating from Shaw Prep, she immediately went to work at “La Jolie”, which was located near Flood Square.  One of La Jolie’s co-owners was Diane Dewberry, who not only trained Michelle in the craft of dog grooming, but also was her mentor.

     Michelle and Thomas McDonnell were married when she was 22, and Michelle stopped working to raise their children.  Jessica (18) is now a freshman at Northeastern, and intends to major in Biology.  Thomas (15) is in the ninth grade at the Boston Collegiate Charter School.  He’d like to become a video game designer.  Thomas, Senior, is a Don Bosco grad, who works as a supervisor in Boston’s Transportation Department.  The recently-installed resident parking signage is the work of Tom’s crew.

     In 1992, Michelle resumed work at the well-known Dewberry Dogs.  This was started up by Diane Dewberry, who by now had become Michelle’s close friend.  If any of you are ever down in Pembroke, stop in at Diane’s new shop, which she calls “The Healthy Animal”.

     Late last year, Michelle’s entrepreneurial spirit became even stronger – a fancy way of saying that she decided to strike out on her own.  “The Broadway Dog Spa” at 547 East Broadway is the result.

     Dog grooming has developed into a real craft, as well as a multi-billion dollar business.  Michelle thinks this is due in part to television coverage, where events such as the Westminster Dog Show are broadcast nationwide.  People are more interested in purebred dogs nowadays, and want to groom their pets in accordance with show standards.

     One of the specialized techniques Michelle performs is called “hand stripping”.  Dogs with curly coats have three layers of fur.  The top layer is about to shed; the bottom is new growth.  These curly coats can develop a patchy color, which simple clipping doesn’t remove, so careful hand-plucking is necessary.  This requires a lot of experience to do properly, as well as a practiced eye and touch.  Also, it must be done at regular intervals, every two to eight weeks – talk with Michelle about your own dog’s needs.

     Another technique in the grooming craft is “hand scissoring”.  This is a slow, careful shaping of the dog’s fur.  The most common example is the grooming given to poodles.  And Michelle has become an expert in handling nervous or elderly dogs requiring gentle treatment.  She has an assistant who handles the bathing step and a ”drying kennel” so the dog doesn’t get chilled, but all grooming receives Michelle’s own personal attention.

     Believe it or not, Michelle’s busiest week (by far) has always been the week before St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s nearly springtime in South Boston, and residents want their dogs looking good for the Parade.  She welcomes new customers, but reminds you that all grooming is done by appointment only.

     Tom and Michelle were the “boy and girl next door” – he lived on Old Harbor, she lived on Gates Street.  In their spare time, Thomas and Michelle have renovated their three-decker on Old Harbor.  They enjoy relaxing with the extended family.  Michelle’s mother died just nine weeks ago, but her father, Joseph Picard, still lives on Gates Street and is a frequent visitor.  Tom’s mother lives upstairs and his sister lives on the third floor of the Old Harbor McDonnell family residence.

     And of course, Michelle is a dog owner.  She has Shepherd/Lab mix that was rescued from a bad situation.  She also has a “Cane Corso”, which is a large Sicilian mastiff, both strong and intelligent.

     (NOTE:  Contact Michelle McDonnell at “The Broadway Dog Spa” by telephoning (617)269-1164.)

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The founder and owner of "Broadwy Dog Spa" Michelle McDonnell, at her grooming station and worktable.

The founder and owner of "Broadway Dog Spa" Michelle McDonnell, at her grooming

station and worktable.

The facade of Michelle McDonnell's "Broadway Dog Spa" at 547 East Broadway.

The facade of Michelle

McDonnell's "Broadway

Dog Spa" at 547 East