Falling into place: Accident leads 'best friends' to working partnership

Daughter joins mom's grooming studio for 'meant-to-be job'
By Sarah E. Reynolds | May 19, 2018
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Rachel Goff, left, and her mother, Daryl Connor, groom Cairn terriers Barnie, right, and Callie together at Fair Winds Grooming Studio in Appleton.

Appleton — When pet groomer Daryl Connor fell and dislocated her shoulder in the winter of 2016, she never imagined that it would lead to a whole new way of working, and to spending her workdays with her best friend.

But that's what happened: Connor's daughter, Rachel Goff, came to help out at the shop, Fair Winds Grooming, on Sennebec Road, three days a week while her mother recovered. Because of her injury, Connor explained, she was very limited as to where she could reach and how much she could do in grooming, so she would do what she could and Rachel would do the rest on each animal. The workaround led to a working style where the two women each work on more or less every pet, speeding the process along and making it possible for both to work on a relatively small grooming table.

Not only that, but since Connor's recovery was a long one and Goff continued to help out even after her mother was healed, after a while, "we realized we were having a really good time," Connor said. By mutual agreement, Goff became a full-time employee in January. She also sells real estate on the side. The mother and daughter both describe themselves as best friends, and say they like similar music and podcasts and enjoy talking and laughing together as they make people's pets attractive.

A feature that makes Fair Winds stand out among grooming parlors, Connor said, is that she invites customers to stay while their pets are groomed. She has comfortable wicker chairs on her porch-turned-grooming-studio, and always has fresh-baked goodies out on a covered plate for human visitors to enjoy. She said around 80 percent of her customers stay.

Begun in 2014, the business has grown to the point that having a full-time helper makes sense, Connor said. Though her business swells in the summer, she is busy year-round. Goff started going with her mother to make grooming house calls when she was just a baby in a backpack, and "I've been critiquing her [Connor's] grooming since I could talk," the daughter joked. Goff had more formal lessons during high school and college, when she worked at Yankee Clipper in Rockport doing prep work while her mom was a groomer there.

While most of the pets they see are dogs, they also groom other small animals, such as rabbits and ferrets, and Connor has the distinction of being the only certified cat groomer in Maine.

It is not unusual for Connor and Goff to make friends of their customers. Many of them brought food to Connor after her injury two years ago, and offered help when they learned that Goff was getting married last year, lending china, helping with the planning and so on.

In her turn, Connor does a lot to help out pet owners and animal organizations in the area. She has made a standing offer to the local animal shelters to groom any animal under 50 pounds for free to make it more attractive for adoption. She held a nail clinic at the Appleton Fire Station in January to benefit the fire department. And she donates a gift certificate for a grooming to P.A.W.S.' annual auction.

When she learns of someone who must give up their pet because of age or illness, she will offer to groom the animal at no charge and help find it a new home. For example, a friend of Goff's told her about a man who was going into the hospital with a terminal illness and had to leave his dog in his mobile home. Someone was coming by to feed the dog and let it out, but there was only a wood stove for heat and the mobile home was very cold with no one there.

With the owner's permission, Goff went to the man's home, got the dog and brought it to Fair Winds, where it was bathed and Connor found it a home through Fair Winds' Facebook page; now the adopter is a customer and friend.

Another time, a customer offered Connor a pug puppy. The customer's husband had recently had a stroke and was irritated by having the dog around. Connor was not in the market for a dog at the time, but said she would take it and find it a home. However, upon meeting Smooch, Connor fell in love, and the puppy found a new home with her, and later with Goff. He still enjoys hanging out on the porch while other dogs take their turns on the grooming table.

Connor's fondness for animals extends beyond her business. At her small farm, she has goats, chickens, rabbits and a donkey, as well as several dogs.

Both women said they enjoy spending their days with animals and their people, as well as the many warm relationships that have resulted from getting to know customers through their pets.

Goff said grooming speaks to her soul. "I spent years trying to do anything other than grooming," she said. "It's kind of like my meant-to-be-job."

Bath time at Fair Winds Grooming Studio. Owner Daryl Connor said long-haired dachshund Chloe, right, is calmer when her pug sibling, Tucker, joins her in the tub. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
Connor trims Tucker's nails while Goff holds him. Chloe waits nearby. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
Fair Winds Grooming Studio is in part of Daryl Connor's home on Sennebec Road in Appleton. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
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