From dogs to jewels

STRASBURG — For the last 18 years, local business owner Michelle Miller has made a living grooming dogs, but all that changed last November when she found she is allergic to dogs.

Miller, the owner of All Dogs Great and Small Grooming Salon and Holistic Pet Shop in Strasburg, said the diagnosis has changed her business focus from grooming dogs to creating glass artwork and jewelry. After Dec. 31, Miller will quit dog grooming full time, only fulfilling appointments on Mondays and Tuesdays for hypoallergenic dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers and Shih Tzus, and devoting the her time to establishing a shop to sell her handmade jewelry and glass artwork. By March, Miller said she hopes to sell jewelry Wednesday through Saturday.

Miller said arts and crafts have been a passion as long as she has been grooming dogs.

“It’s the kind of thing I’ve done in grade school, high school … you know, photography, art, painting, anything that has to do with arts and crafts,” Miller said. “I even look at grooming as a form of art, it’s just live art.”

Throughout November and December, Miller will be phasing out the dog accessories in her shop through a series of weekly sales and replace them with with glass bowls, sun catchers, handmade dog beds, pillows, photographs and paintings.

Miller said she thinks her new business will be a good fit for Strasburg.

“I’ve been to a lot of small towns and I’ve seen what does work and what doesn’t work,” Miller said. “In small towns, people like that old town, handmade feel, so there’s definitely a demand for it.”

Glass fusion, which is the welding of one piece of glass to another with heated glass, will be offered in her new store.

Miller said, “Whenever I mention glass fusions, a lot of people look at me and ask, ‘what the heck is that,’ but then they see it and fall in love. It’s something I really haven’t seen in the local art gallery.”

The transition from dog brushing to jewelry hawking will not be without its challenges, Miller said.

“This year, I’ve seen business slow down, due to the economy,” Miller said. “When somebody gets laid off, it becomes a choice between either paying the bill or getting the dog groomed, they tend to shove the dog to the side.”

Miller said she hopes people get the message about the transition.

“Word of mouth goes really quickly and a lot of my clients know what is going on and I have a lot of people in town who are getting the word out,” Miller said. “I still get a lot of calls from people who think I’m going out of business, so I’ve had to explain why I’m transitioning. It really wears me down.”

“I know we have arts and that sort of thing, but I hope what I’m bringing in will get people to visit out of town and get us on the map.” Miller continued, “I want to help put Strasburg on the map as one of those towns people visit, like Woodstock and Front Royal.”

When Miller makes the transition, she will be gaining a new business partner as well, one who know her inside and out: her mother. Miller said her mother will provide additional items to the shop.

“She does a lot of reefs, a lot of handmade pillows, dry flowers, needle work, eye glass chains, some jewelry,” Miller said. “I do most of it, but she brings her own artistic ability to it.”

When the building Miller is currently located in sells, she said she hopes to move her shop to downtown Strasburg.

“I want to be able to teach glasswork at the new location,” Miller said. “Maybe people could come with their kids and make a pair of earrings or a glass fusion bowl.”

Miller’s All Dogs Big and Small is currently located at 510 W. King St. and is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com