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It All Started With a Question

Meet Intergroom’s Christine DeFilippo

When a groomer in the midst of a bad day asks a client if she wants to buy her grooming business, it’s hard to imagine that the clientwould say yes and even harder to imagine that it would lead to success. But Christine DeFilippo did just that. Luckily for Christine, and the rest of the grooming industry, it turned out to be one of the best answers she ever gave! Her yes, she says, was “the beginning of the rest of my life!”

Thirty years ago, Christine was merely trying to schedule an appointment, when her groomer asked, “Want to buy a grooming business?” Sensing that something was wrong, Christine asked for a bit of background. It turned out that the groomer’s son was going to purchase the salon, but things didn’t work out as planned and she was burnt out. Christine was interested despite having never groomed a dog before. Although skeptical, the groomer said that Christine could work in the salon for a month, to see if she was cut out for the business, and if it went well, they would talk.

Christine was willing to take the chance to prove herself, “I was in my third profession, and I was looking for a change.” After 30 days of doing every dirty job in the shop, with no pay, Christine was told that she might just have the right stuff to make a great groomer. She worked with the groomer for six more months, learning the art, before she bought the business. There was one thing she had to adapt to, though, “I was used to wearing complete makeup when I went to work. You can’t do that in a grooming salon.”

She quickly caught on, and found a lot to love. “My proudest moments as a groomer are when clients pick up their dog and are excited,” Christine says. “That is the best part of a groomer’s day.” To create as many of those moments as possible Christine continued her grooming education and began attending shows and seminars. “They kept me motivated and I kept my clients happy with the new ideas I would bring back to the salon,” she says, noting that her timing was perfect. She entered the profession just as seminars began to take off, “Lucky for me!” 

Maybe it was even more luck for Christine, and the grooming industry, that her story of entering the career replayed itself again, years later. After telling the tale to industry icon and conference creator Shirlee Kalstone, Shirlee couldn’t help but ask, “Want to buy a grooming conference?” Once more, Christine said yes, and found herself as a full partner in Intergroom in 1998.

In 2000, Christine took full ownership of Intergroom, and moved the show from the hotel that had been its home to the Garden State Convention Center in New Jersey.  “We dressed the show with ideas from a beauty industry show: lots of color and high-end audio-visual equipment. We’ve grown each year, and now attract over 3,000 groomers annually with the competitions, continuing education classes, a huge trade show and social gathering.” 

Intergroom is a major part of Christine’s life, especially from November to April, but she believes it is crucial to the advancement of the profession. “We all grow from one another, and the idea behind big events, like Intergroom, is to promote the exchange of ideas and techniques.”

Even with Intergroom on her mind, Christine still owns and operates a grooming salon. Including a bathing staff, she employs 11 people. While she doesn’t do much grooming any more, Christine says, “I step in and do what’s needed. I love talking with the clients and specialize in problem solving in that area.”

Many of Christine’s employees are very active within the grooming community, themselves, and she couldn’t be prouder. “I have been blessed with wonderful pet stylists, some of whom have been with me for over 20 years!” she says. “Some of my staff have competed nationally and they make me proud every day.” Two of her salon staff members are on the Cardinal Crystal Award Ballot this year, Vero Da Sylva and Susan Pratt.

Christine encourages her staff to go to as many seminars as possible, and compete as often as possible, even to the point of lending her own pets, “When they use one of my poodles for competition and win, my heart could burst with pride!” Even before her own involvement with Intergroom, Christine would send her staff. “We would close the salon and all go for the weekend,” she explains, “Each year there were more of going since my staff was growing by leaps and bounds! One year, I actually had three hotel rooms, with 10 people from my staff in them.”

In fact, Christine still attends other seminars and expos regularly herself, recognizing their importance to her own development, “I love the fact that there are so many conferences.” Conferences are essential to any groomer, at any level of their career, Christine believes, “I never go home from one without learning something new.”

Christine’s involvement within the grooming community hasn’t gone unnoticed, even outside of Intergroom. In addition to receiving the David Salzberg Humanitarian Award, before it joined the Crystal Award family, Christine has also been nominated for the Congeniality Cardinal Crystal award. She and Shirlee also received a special Crystal Award on the 25th Anniversary of Intergroom. Most recently, Christine received the “Pillar of Our Community” award, created by New England Pet Grooming Professionals. The award celebrates groomers helping groomers, and honors an “Outstanding Performance That Exceeds Expectations.” Christine says, “This award has a big place in my heart.”

 

 

 

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