One night, Patty Elliott woke up to a strange noise in her bedroom. She thought someone had broken into her home. An intruder had definitely entered her bedroom but it wasn’t a person. It was actually three dogs that made themselves comfortable on her bed after letting themselves into the room.
This may sound odd to most people, but to Elliott, it was just another day at work. Elliott owns Femmes and Fidos, a pet grooming and boarding business in Port Warwick. She and her husband live in an apartment above the boarding area.
The dogs cleverly escaped their beds and made their way upstairs in search of more cozy confines.
“My husband said, ‘You didn’t shut the door.’ He didn’t even react,” says Elliott with a smile.
It’s just the way Elliott’s life is, and the way she prefers it to be.
Elliott is not only a business owner, she is also a dog lover doing what she adores: taking care of four-legged customers and making sure they are happy and comfortable, even if that means sharing her bed. “I love what I do,” she says.
Once a middle school teacher, Elliott decided in 2002 to stop teaching and embark on a totally different journey. Always a dog person, Elliott set her sights on opening a pet bakery and boutique in Williamsburg in 2002. She enlisted the help of her dad, who had retired, and had a strong business acumen.
“I went to my dad and showed him the spreadsheet for a doggy boutique and bakery, and he said, ‘OK, let’s go,’” she says. “He was part of it.” That was a time when pet owners avidly sought sets of clothing that would allow them to match their animals’ outfits.
In 2007, Elliott discovered Port Warwick, and “fell in love” with the community. She sold the Williamsburg store and opened in Newport News. She was wooed by Port Warwick developer Bobby Freeman, who then had a Jack Russell terrier.
“I decided this is where I wanted to be,” she says. “We were one of the first businesses here, and one of the ones to last the longest.”
As the market shifted and the pet business evolved, Elliott pivoted and set her sights on her focus — grooming, daycare and boarding. Her business has flourished, and she now has two storefronts in Port Warwick, one that focuses on grooming and has a boutique and the other that handles the daycare and boarding side of the enterprise.
“When we moved here, we were looking for an environment that was community oriented and like home,” Elliott says. “I didn’t want to be in a mall. I wanted a more family environment.”
Femmes and Fidos employs four groomers and nine employees who work in the boarding/daycare side of the business. Elliott treats her employees like family, and enjoys talking with them and her customers.
“So much of this job is interacting with people,” she says. “We have a great time.”
Elliott also loves working with her furry customers. A dog person by nature, Elliott gets to know the dogs and understands their needs and wants. “Every behavior they exhibit shows them trying to tell you something. You are their voice and advocate,” she says. “It’s really fun. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle every day.”
Elliott grew up in a home with hunting dogs and learned about dog behavior from her father. “Dogs are very intuitive,” she says. “They have so much to teach us.”
Clients come from as far away as Washington, DC, to board their dogs at Femmes and Fidos. Elliott has built a trust with dog owners, and they know their animals will be safe and happy while they are away. She also has clients who come from Williamsburg and Norfolk on a regular basis to bring their dogs to daycare so they can play with other canine buddies. The daycare portion of the business is growing, with often 30 dogs daily who come to romp around and frolic. Just like at preschool drop off, the dogs’ owners line up in the morning. The dogs are often hanging out the window in excitement of what is to come that day.
“We have the best time,” Elliott says.
The boarding side can handle more than 30 dogs at a time. “These dogs become part of our family,” she says.
At 10 pm each night, Elliott and her husband come downstairs to say good night to the dogs in boarding. She gives them a treat and turns on lullaby music to ensure they rest peacefully. “We check on everybody,” Elliott says.
As Femmes and Fidos continues to grow, so does Elliott’s love for what she does each day. The business, she says, will continue to evolve as trends change. One day she would like to open a grooming school. In the meantime, she plans to keep making pets and their humans as happy as possible.
“Not in a million years would I trade this for anything else,” she says. “The reward is the animals.”
TO THE POINT:
Femmes and Fidos
Address: 149 Herman Melville Ave.,
Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Patty Elliott, owner