Pugs and suds

Automatic dog wash appeals to local canine lovers

The only thing missing from the Hoboken Dog Wash is scented pine trees to hang from the dog’s neck on the way out.
Fran Totaro saw the idea for the dog wash on an episode of American Choppers three years ago. He thought, “We could use one in Hoboken.”
It wasn’t until the economy tanked and his watch shop at Fourth and Garden streets began to struggle that he started researching the concept.
He brought in two self-contained dog wash machines, equipped with all-in-one nozzles that easily switch from soap to rinse to anti-flea-and-tick spray, all “100 percent natural products,” according to Totaro.


“They leave the mess here.” – Fran Totaro

The tubs are waist-high, accommodate all size dogs, and provide easy access with a large gate on the front.
They also have a non-slip surface, addressing a major concern for dogs who hate the slipping-and-sliding of regular bath tubs, Totaro said.
Now, he’s awash in success.
“Some people say their dogs are [usually] irate [when getting washed],” he said. “They come here and they’re fine. Some people have been here four times already. They leave the mess here.”
Totaro said dog-related services are almost recession-proof, which makes his dog wash a better venture that the now-defunct watch shop.
“Once the recession hit, it was hard to keep [the watch shop] open,” said Totaro, a lifelong Hoboken resident. “To me, it’s fun. I love animals and I love working with people.”
His family owned the building on Fourth Street, but sold it nine years ago. They retained ownership of the small storefront, though. Its location near the Church Square Park dog run is ideal for the dog wash, he said.

At the dog wash

The machines run for 10 minutes for $15, and customers can add another dollar for two extra minutes.
But Totaro said the whole session takes only seven minutes once you get into a rhythm. His dog Rufus, the official mascot, has been through the wash many times and now clocks in at only five minutes.
“It’s quick and easy. Some people don’t even have a bathtub,” he said. Standing showers are popular in the new, smaller condos and apartments.
Totaro provides smocks to keep owners dry from the wet dogs, and treats for the dogs who behave.
He also has a dog groomer in the shop a few times per week. Erica Li, a local expert groomer who was recommended to Totaro, has been visiting the store on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Catching on

Local dog owner Jessie brought 9-year-old Chewbacca into the wash for his first time recently. With Totaro’s help, she quickly learned how to operate the wash and Chewbacca was well-behaved.
“Everyone I know comes in here,” she said.
Totaro credits local artist Matthew Casazza for the colorful exterior of the shop. Casazza also designed the easily recognizable exterior of Totaro’s former watch shop, using Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” as a basis.
Some of Casazza’s work is on display at Hoboken Frame and Photo, 326 Washington St.
The Hoboken Dog Wash, 163 Fourth St., is closed on Mondays, open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at tcarroll@hudsonreporter.com.

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