Dog days ahead for Aspen grooming business? |

Dog days ahead for Aspen grooming business?

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The days appear to be numbered for a longtime Aspen dog-grooming business.

The owner of Tailwaggers said this week that her landlord recently raised her rent by 28 percent, meaning she’ll likely leave her spot at the Aspen Business Center when her lease expires at the end of September.

“There wasn’t any indication this was going to happen,” said Debby Farrell, who has run the business for the past 10 years at the Aspen Business Center. She previously operated it for 17 years from the former Aspen Animal Shelter.

Tailwaggers’ furry clients over the years have included dogs owned by Mariah Carey and Martina Navratilova. On Wednesday, as Farrell groomed a large poodle, the former police dispatcher said the summer accounts for a big chunk of her revenue, with 75 percent of her business coming from second-home owners. Entering the offseason with the rent increase would set her up for failure, she said.

Farrell said that during her tenancy at the Aspen Business Center, she and landlord Sally Hansen had a verbal agreement that her rent be raised 5 percent annually. Tailwaggers takes up 1,040 square feet of ground-level space in a building on the eastern side of the Aspen Business Center.

A spokesperson for Hansen, who was out of town this week, said in a statement that Farrell is still getting a good deal despite the hike.

“We took her rent way down below market during the recession to help her out,” the statement said. “We are just now raising it back up to a normal market rent in line with the rest of the building. With this increase, her rent will still be less than it was in 2009. It is still probably one of the least expensive rents in the upper valley.”

Farrell, however, said she could have gotten more advance notice.

“For me to stay open, this is impossible,” she said, noting that even if she were to pass the cost on to her customers, they wouldn’t pay the higher charges and she’d go out of business.

Farrell turns 64 on Saturday and said she was hoping to spend the next two years at the Aspen Business Center before she retires. Now she’ll be looking elsewhere, perhaps at Willits, which is near her Basalt home. But finding commercial space isn’t so simple for a dog-grooming business, she said. Landlords are particular about their tenants, and one that deals with canines isn’t always an easy one because of barking dogs and other issues.

“It’s going to create a big problem if I can’t reopen,” Farrell said. “I don’t know where I’m going to land.”