VIP Pet SpaOct 12, 2020 11:39AM ● By Mary Colarik
Kristin Hrenkevich, owner of VIP Pet Spa since 2006.
by Mary Colarik
Since relocating to San Clemente two years ago, I have noticed that people are intrigued with how one manages to come to live and work in San Clemente.
I recently spoke with two women who have landed unexpectedly in this laidback beach town at the Southern tip of Orange County and are doing just that. Each presently owns a small business on South El Camino Real in a little strip plaza across from Ralph’s. And when I moved into my home on T-street and my dog needed a groom, I was happy to discover that their shops, a pet spa and a healthy organic juice spot were in that same plaza.
When Kristin Hrenkevich, owner of VIP Pet Spa since 2006, was a young girl growing up in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh her family took a vacation to Southern California - visiting Disneyland and taking in the sights and highlights around LA. Although only eight-years-old at the time, Hrenkevich told her parents that she was going to live in Southern California someday.
After attending Penn State - majoring in business and marketing - upon graduation in 2002, she interviewed on campus with one of the Huntington Beach Aerospace Companies. Not only did the company hire her, they paid for her move too! She hit the jackpot - settling right into the Southern California lifestyle in frequently called Surf City.
In 2005 Gateway in Irvine offered her a position, so she made the switch and took on the new job with a big paycheck. She was 25-years-old earning a solid income, however, she soon realized she absolutely could not imagine herself sitting in an office building in a cubicle on her projected career path for the next several years.
One of her co-workers mentioned his wife was a pet groomer in Glendale. She started asking a lot of questions, becoming captivated by the possibility of running a pet grooming business. An Ivy League graduate on a solid career path becomes interested in a huge career change - possibly buying a pet grooming business? Yes, life does take unexpected twists and turns.
Actually, Hrenkevich had briefly considered changing her major to Animal Science and entering Veterinary School. But as a college senior she would have had to start over, sitting in Biology 101 classes with freshman, not to mention the extra financial burden, so she stayed on track, graduating on a timely basis with her intended major.
Although as a young girl and teen her family didn’t have pets, she was always taking care of pets in the neighborhood loving all the dogs and cats. One day, in 2006, while searching yahoo.com for Pet Salons for sale in Orange County. Lo and behold, VIP Pet Spa in San Clemente was for sale. She called her parents and asked to borrow money to buy the business and they agreed to support her endeavor. (She has since paid them back and has owned the business on South El Camino Real for 14 years). She then hired a groomer and learned how to do the grooming and bathing while running the financial side of the business herself.
VIP Pet Spa offers washing, grooming, nail trimming, anal gland expression and a self-wash station. They also have a partnership that provides a quarterly non-anesthetic dental checkup. Additionally the Spa provides a small, but prettily decorated lobby filled with collars, leashes, toys and treats, plus a line of CBD pet products, including drops, balms and treats.
This year, with the worldwide pandemic and stay-at-home orders issued in Mid-March, Hrenkevich has been presented many challenges. The first two weeks of the closure she headed out to the ocean and surfed every day - a sport she just picked up two years ago. Then, she attacked her perpetual “to-do list” - cleaning, painting and reorganizing her place of business. She used old window frames to display a lot of her retail items - cleverly hung by using a pulley system from the ceiling. Her staff qualified for the EDIL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and unemployment, and she had an emergency fund set aside and believes in good insurance, so she was able to stay afloat during the shutdown.
Slowly, she started working alone one pet at a time. She took care of 85 dogs in five weeks, bathing, grooming and drying her client’s pets. In early June her entire staff was back at work. She posted all her Covid 19 rules on her door-which I really appreciated as a customer. These included: sneeze guard installed, one person at a time in the lobby, mask on, only regular clients, no walk-ins, no self-wash, a strict drop-off/pick up schedule, and all customers leaving their pets’ collars and leashes to be sprayed down with a sanitizer.
Hrenkevich thoroughly enjoys life here in San Clemente. She and her boyfriend had planned a trip to Hawaii to celebrate her 40th birthday this year, but that has been postponed until 2021. Happily, she lives where she feels fortunate to live in a “vacation town” able to enjoy abundant sunshine and surf with almost perfect year-round weather. Although hooked on surfing, she also enjoys walking her little dog, Kiki (who has her own special spot in the front window of the pet spa), with reading, backyard BBQ’s and being outdoors her other interests outside of work. The little eight-year-old girl with a big dream of living in Southern California followed that dream, finding her passion in an unpredicted career and landing in one of the most idyllic spots on earth.
810 S El Camino Real, San Clemente (949) 492-7473