If you’ve ever fostered or adopted a dog from a Lincoln rescue, chances are you’ve received a coupon for a free dog wash from Canine Scrub. Or if you’ve ever attended a fund-raiser for an animal welfare group, chances are you’ve met Canine Scrub’s owners Lezlie Ferguson and Mike Wensel. With its more than 2,000 likes on Facebook, Canine Scrub has been on my radar for a long time.
Mike Wensel frequented self-serve dog washes when he lived on the west coast. Bathing his dogs at home in the bathtub, in contrast, he’d found to be difficult, messy, and stressful. It was easier to just take his dogs to the local dog wash with its raised tubs, pay a few bucks on a bath, and drive off with two happy dogs. Which, he thought, explains why the self-serve dog wash was always so busy
In 2010, Wensel reconnected with Lezlie Ferguson at their 30-year Lincoln High School class reunion, and soon afterwards moved back to Lincoln. When he discovered that Ferguson washed her dogs in a shower, he thought of the self-serve dog washes he’d left behind on the west coast. He then checked into whether there were any self-serve dog washes in Lincoln and found there were none.” That started Wensel thinking. He had some money saved. Both her and Ferguson were looking for a career change. It wasn’t long before the two began a path towards business ownership. “With a lot of help from some of the best friends and relatives a guy and gal could ever have, we designed and built three custom tubs and put them into a location that we felt was about as central Lincoln as we could get.”
In 2012, Canine Scrub opened its doors at a closed tattoo parlor. Wensel and Ferguson papered Lincoln’s dog-friendly places with fliers. At first, it was just the two of them, and hours were limited. They had many responsibilities in addition to running the business. Wensel served as both the plumber and electrician, while Ferguson took on the responsibility of the doggy-themed décor. By April of that year, the business was doing so well that the two increased the number of open hours and considered adding more tubs.
Fast forward to 2016. Canine Scrub now makes its home at the site of a former Dairy Queen on 4130 S. 48th St. This new location not only provides a parking lot but also boasts bigger quarters. Immediately inside is a retail area, where customers can purchase grooming supplies, leashes, and t-shirts promoting various animal causes. Wensel says, “We keep it simple. We don’t want to be a pet store.” When I visited, the OPEN sign turned on promptly at 10, and already there were eager customers.
If you haven’t already discovered Canine Scrub, it offers three large tubs, one medium tub and one small tub for bathing dogs. Its drying area has four raised table type drying stations and a drying room with a more gradual step to a platform drying station, which will eventually become an enclosed filtered airflow room for those “really hairy shedding dogs”. Besides providing all basic grooming supplies, Canine Scrub also offers lots of extras including demat/deshedding sprays, colognes, and ear cleaner at no additional cost. Perhaps, best of all, all cleaning up after your dog is done by the Canine Scrub staff.
Canine Scrub now has an assistant. During my visit, I chatted with Grayson Trevett about his position. An agility instructor for the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, Trevett started using Canine Scrub to prepare his dog for shows. Not happy with his retail job, he was ready for a change, and asked if Canine Scrub was hiring. Why does a self-serve dog wash need an assistant?” While most customers are happy to simply have a place outside of their home to wash their own dogs, sometimes they do ask Canine Scrub staff for advice. Customers can also request a Wee Scrub, whereby dogs are washed instead by staff.
Wenzel and Ferguson believe that one key to the success of Canine Scrub has been that the two have expanded slowly and have never spent beyond their means. “We have grown the business as we could afford it, because we felt it was important to stay in business and continue providing something that our customers needed.”
Another key to their success has been their customers, whose word-of-mouth advertising has helped the business to thrive. “There’s nothing better than a satisfied customer telling their friends and family about the great experience they had here and how easy it was on them and their animal. Many of them have also noticed how we are working to make each new visit better, so they keep coming back.”
Indeed, when I asked members at Greater Lincoln Obedience Club to share their reasons for using Canine Scrub, I received several enthusiastic responses. Ease of use was a popular answer. Marcy Graybill noted how when she was regularly going to obedience conformation shows she used to leave grooming equipment set up in her basement, but now she relies on Canine Scrub. Lynn Buckner said that Canine Scrub has everything one could possibly need: “Dryers, combs, brushes, towels, wash clothes, aprons for the washer, the list could go on and on.” (If you prefer to use your own supplies, you’re welcome to use those instead!) Members also like not having to clean up afterwards, especially drains clogged with dog hair. Other reasons given were reasonable prices and customer service. In regards to the latter, pet owners can take as much time as they want to wash their dogs, and can ask for as much help as needed. Robin Bonge also added that discounts are given for service dogs.
Wensel and Ferguson “firmly believe in spoiling our customers rotten”. were embarrassing moments, such as when one of them tried to remember a returning dog’s name and guessed wrong. But, there were also many funny moments. For example, both Wensel and Ferguson have both been accidentally sprayed by customers many times. “On a few occasions, we’ve wondered how accidental it was; knowing that some of our customers know us well enough to goof around a bit.”
Since its grand opening in March 2012, Canine Scrubs has served over 5,000 dogs. Clearly, this self-serve dog wash has been embraced by Lincoln. If the idea of escaping the responsibility of cleaning up after your dog’s bath appeals to you, Canine Scrub is open seven days a week (hours are on their website) and no appointment is needed.