Meandering west along Voltaire Street I begin to notice of how truly “walkable” this area of our community is. The towering trees provide much needed fresh air and shade; the sidewalks clean and lit at night by brightly painted light poles; there are virtually no traces of doggie doo anywhere; many shops have their doors open with business in full swing. From all appearances, Voltaire Street is alive and well in this current economy.
As I approach Mindy Pellissier’s shop, Dog Beach Dog Wash, at 4933 Voltaire, I notice large coolers of fresh water perched atop custom made semi-circular wooden benches out front. They hover directly above clean dog water bowls that rest on green outdoor turf. It’s only a matter of moments before the first of many passing pooches stops for a refreshing drink of cool water. One passer-by deposits fido’s last bag o’ doo into the covered stainless steel trash can and selects a new doggy doo bag provided at no cost to the community by Mindy’s shop.
While waiting for Mindy out in front of her shop, it’s easy to confirm what those that know her have told me about her…. she has done a lot in and for the OB community in the years she’s lived here, so much in fact that it boggles my mind.
Simply sitting outside her business, watching all the customers (both human and K9) come and go from her shop is encouraging to our local economy. It wouldn’t be until speaking with her over the next two hours that I would discover just how much she’s done to enhance our charming community and bring a better quality of life to many who call OB home and visitors alike.
Entering the shop, I am greeted by smiling, happy people washing their dogs in raised, sparkling clean porcelain tubs (the first of their kind in California). The dogs are calm, enjoying themselves as much as a bathing dog can, and their owners are busy scrubbing and rinsing wet fur with soapy hands in aprons provided by the shop.
The smell of wet dog fur wafts through the air and for a dog lover like me, it’s a delightful smell. Staff is attentive, friendly, and eager to aid the customers in any way they can. Conversations easily flow between dog owners and everyone is generally having a good time. Perhaps the wet pooches would tell another story, but all in all they are doing well and anticipating their treat at the end of bath time.
Mindy is in the rear of the shop conversing with a few members of her staff when I introduce myself. She is petite in stature yet a quiet powerhouse of leadership from within.
She begins by giving me a thorough tour of her entire facility, showing me the front room where the tubs are located, the dog training room on the east side of the shop, and the back offices where supplies are maintained, paperwork neatly kept, offices and tool storage. It is all highly organized and well thought out for ease of access. We find a comfortable seat out back and settle in for an hour interview.
Our conversation easily flows into two hours and I am honored by her gracious gift of time to speak with me about her involvements in OB. Mindy is co-owner of Dog Beach Dog Wash with Jane Donley – which opened its doors 17 years ago. As I inquired as to what brought her to OB, she openly speaks of her 40th birthday, her mid-life crisis, and need for life change arriving in succession.
“I had been working in Corporate Healthcare, living in La Jolla where I felt the need to dress up to go to the grocery store, and realized I suddenly needed to change my whole life. I knew my passions were, and still are, dogs, clean water for the environment, and living at the beach. I simply incorporated all three into my new life here in OB.”
And this community, as a whole, is better off because of it. Three years after moving to OB, she and Donley opened Dog Beach Dog Wash where it still operates successfully today on Voltaire near Cable.
“Back then Voltaire Street was seedy. There were many vacant store fronts to choose from when we looked for a location. The current store owners back then thought we were nuts. ‘A dog wash? What’s that? There never been one here before, how could it possibly work?’,” she so openly recalls them saying to her. A knowing smile graces her face as she tells me, “We recently celebrated our 400,000 dog wash a month ago and our 17th Anniversary in business on February 6, 2010.”
But operating the most successful dog wash in the country isn’t what pleases her. It’s what she’s been able to do for the community she calls home through her business that brings her to life.
“I have worked on the OB Community Plan for nine years now and I intend to see it through to completion. I believe we are about a year from completing it. When the City of San Diego decided to re-write their City Plan, to the chagrin of many, we wisely chose to put OB’s Plan on hold. There was no reason to move forward with a Plan that would be obsolete upon completion to the City of San Diego. In fact, OB’s finalized Community Plan will now be the first to mirror San Diego’s new City Plan.”
Mindy served on the OB Planning Board for eight years.
“I see my biggest strength as a ‘consensus builder.’ It’s easy for me to hear both extremes of an issue, bring both sides together, exercise a lot of patience, and to the extent possible, find a working solution. I love how diverse the population is in OB. I also saw OB as a walkable community and have worked toward that end through making goals and outlining objectives.”
Here are just a few of Mindy’s active solutions over the past 20 years:
- Dog Beach Cleanups. Organizes monthly events, supplies tools, advertises
- First to join San Diego River Coalition. Proposed scientific study that resulted in Dog Beach staying open when pollution upriver threatened it with closure.
- Served on OB Planning Board eight years
- City of San Diego contacts her annually to organize the Annual Community CleanUp (alleyway collection of unwanted items)
- 200 trees planted and growing along Voltaire Street
- Benches installed along Voltaire Street
- Commissioned artist to paint mural in community (SDGE box)
- Provides free doggie doo bags at Dog Beach, Dusty Rhodes Park, and at shop
- Donated gift certificates: 100 in 2009 at $32 each to dogs, kids, and local related causes
- Cash donations to: Humane Society, FOCAS, San Diego River Foundation, I Love a Clean San Diego, Coastal Keeper, and many other organizations
- Referrals to other animal organizations who specialize in other areas of animal care (they may have links on their website soon!)
- Dedicated commitment to what works in/for OB and OBceans
- Strong, upstanding, enduring business ethics that constantly strive to provide regional customers with what they want
- Accredited member of San Diego Better Business Bureau
If a person’s worth was measured by what they do for others, Mindy is the richest individual I have met in a long, long while. Her longstanding endurance from her preferred behind-the-scenes position has enhanced our community tremendously. Her quiet, guiding vision born out of crisis 20 years ago has enhanced this community again and again.
Take a walk along Voltaire Street between Cable and Bacon on any given day and notice what’s working in OB that Mindy manifested….shade yourself under any of the tall trees, rest awhile on any number of custom benches, stroll peacefully with others who are simply enjoying the good life we share in OB; the life Mindy’s efforts and actions have enhanced for all of us, human and K9, to enjoy each day.
Would you like to get involved in what has worked well in OB for nearly 20 years and keep this positive force moving forward? Mindy is the first to acknowledge all who have volunteered over the years with her on these community enhancements and knows her organizational efforts would be in vein without all who step up and pitch in.
Stop by her shop anytime and pick up the monthly schedule of events. You’ll find Mindy there six days a week, either buried under mountains of well organized paperwork or up to her elbows in doggy shampoo bubbles.
Other preferred methods of contact include: firstname.lastname@example.org, 619-523-1700, or www.dogwash.com