Pick of Litter: LaunderPets Voted Best Groomer


Photos by Kate Karp.

A couple of articles back, I mentioned sand in unmentionable places after a romp at Rosie’s Dog Beach. Combined with the saltwater, the schmutz picked up on the walk home and an impromptu roll in the dirt, it’s time for a good bath. And you’re exhausted and barely have time for a brief shower.

If this were 10 years ago, I’d transition to Belmont Pets and LaunderPet and advise taking your dog for a grooming session so excellent, reasonable and thorough that you’d be tempted to make it a regularly scheduled occasion. In fact, for the sake of disclosure, I once took Woodbine, one of my cats, for a bath after he sat on a freshly painted windowsill. I’m sure he wasn’t delighted by the process, but there wasn’t a trace of paint on him and his coat, normally coarse, felt like a cloud. But it’s 2012, and the little care-and-supplies operation has become a pillar of the pet community—four pillars, in fact—under the family name LaunderPet and identified by area. They’ve been collectively voted Best Groomer in our Pick of the Litter reader poll for their quality, value and the individual customer service associated with popular small businesses.

“I like the small format—it’s one of the things that keep us close to customers,” said Eric Hatch, who owns the LaunderPet family of shops with his partner, Doug Mayhew. “We also get to know the pets and serve in a way that only small stores can.”

every square foot used

Every square foot used.

Each of the four LaunderPets—Belmont Pets, Seal Beach, Bixby Knolls and Los Altos—is fairly small, at a range of 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, and every inch is put to use. The newest location opened in the Los Altos Shopping Center in 2011 at the former Wags to Whiskers, owned by Dara Samson, and is still referred to by that name.

“Dara’s passion is design work, and there weren’t enough hours in the day for her to do it,” Hatch said. “And we’d always wanted one in that area.” The Los Altos LaunderPet still carries Sampson’s cleverly designed Hot Bows, a line of unique fashion bijoux for both dogs and little (or big) girls. You can do Mommy and me and Rover makes three with them.

All the stores offer full-service breed-specific grooming (including a blueberry facial for cats—I have no idea what that is, and Woodbine didn’t get one) for well-behaved dogs, cats and the occasional rabbit. All of the locations except Los Altos offer anesthesia-free teeth cleaning for dogs and cats on scheduled days, and self-service pet washing is available at the Belmont Heights and Bixby locations. Doggie daycare is provided through Alpha Pet Care at Seal Beach LaunderPets. And of course, all kinds of quality pet food, toys, treats and other fine goodies pack whatever space in the store isn’t used for washing—theBelmontstore also has items for fish. Wags to Wiskers is still mainly grooming with some retail items, including the Hot Bows, available. Taste of the Wild, a premium pet food line, will be sold at that location in the near future.

Olive Howe with Dewey Lab

Client Dewey with his mom, Olive Howe, says that he’s been coming to Belmont LaunderPets for years and has remained loyal since day one.

Reg Lapham with Molly lab mix and Luna Husky

Molly and Luna, with companion Reg Lapham, like the personal attention given by the LaunderPet Groomer.

Not surprisingly, and like anyone whose career has anything to do with pets, Hatch’s love for animals combined with his entrepreneurial spirit to lead him to his business. His childhood home in Ontario, Calif., included chickens and rabbits among the other pets, and he remembers being horrified when his great-grandmother asked him why he didn’t eat them. Hatch and his friends were always thinking up ways to make money, and he took his first job at a feed store. With then business partner John W. Thomas, an honored board member of Long Beach Heritage, he opened his first shop in 1991 in what was the Belmont Heights Pet Shop on Broadway, changed the name to Belmont Pets and limited live-animal sales to birds and fish. No dogs were sold, but Hatch regularly rescued cats and kittens and charged adoption fees to cover vet care and grooming for each animal.

One of the rescues was a little tuxedo kitty who wandered in one day and settled herself in as store cat. Named Gypsy, she had no fear of dogs, lay around outside during the day and stayed in the shop at night to protect it from marauders. True to her name, she once cadged a ride in a convertible and wasn’t discovered by the driver until they arrived at his house. Fortunately, Gypsy’s ID tag made it possible for the car owner to call Hatch and Mayhew when he got home.

“I miss her so much,” Hatch said of the little cat, who passed away a few years ago.



In 1996, three years after opening a self-service and full-service wash facility a few doors down from Belmont Pets, Hatch decided to combine both under one roof. Thus was born the first of the LaunderPet litter. To see if they could repeat the success, Hatch and Mayhew bought Paw-villion, the former Peg’s Pets, on Main Street in Seal Beachand rebranded it as Seal Beach LaunderPet. The store had sold puppies and kittens for years, and this didn’t sit well with the LaunderPet business model and particularly with the owners’ moral sensibility.

“We’re all about referring to shelters and rescue groups,” Hatch said, who also sat on the board of Friends of Long Beach Animals from 2003 to 2011 and remains active in the spay/neuter organization. “One condition of the sale was that the owner had to place the cats, kittens and puppies.”

Hatch credits the community and his employees for Launderpet’s continuing success. He calls his employees the “backbone and strength” of the business, and he’s delighted with the reviews the stores have gotten as a result of his workers’ attention, care and hard work.

“That’s what we’re all about—outstanding customer service,” Hatch said. And there’s small pet-care business at its best: the only thing fierce at any LaunderPet is the independence.

ubergroomer Maryssa Lymuel and Nunu

Übergroomer Maryssa Lymuel uses her magic touch on Nunu.

Laura Buell left Eric Hatch center and Jennifer Martinez right.

Eric Hatch flanked by employees Laura Buell and Jenny Martinez.

Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.

~ Franklin P. Jones, Philadelphia journalist and humorist

Virtually Pets

Dumped Calico

cats - tabby and white 9-2012

These two beauties, both about 6 months old, were dumped at a local pet store and were headed for the shelter when they were rescued. The calico is a female medium haired with a fluffy tail; the tabby is a regular domestic shorthair female. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Pet Projects

Interfaith Blessing of the Animals, Saturday, Oct. 6, sunset, Granada Boat Launch Ramp at Granada Avenue and Ocean in Belmont Shore

More than 300 animals are expected to attend the 11th annual Interfaith Blessing of the Animals, one of the largest blessings of pets in the world. The Blessing is courtesy of Justin Rudd’s nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT) which includes Haute Dogs. The event is always free to the public and their pets. Special guests in the past have included horses, ponies, an alpaca, goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens. Seniors, families, singles and children, were encouraged to bring their dogs, cats, birds, lizards, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, fish, tortoises and turtles, and other well-behaved pets. We think the animals already come blessed, but we also think that they’re encouraging us to come. For more information, click here.

Pet Appreciation Fair and WALK for the Animals, Saturday, Oct. 13, 9AM–3PM, El Dorado Regional Park Archery Range, 7550 Spring Street at the 605 Freeway, Long Beach. Parking: $7.

Participants at this annual event can strut their stuff for their Long Beachshelter counterparts and have a chance at winning great prizes! Participants and spectators will also enjoy exhibits, activities for kids, food trucks, vendors, judged pet contests, and canine demonstrations by Disc Dogs of Southern California and Surf City Flyball. The Super Smiley Flash Mob 4 Pet Adoption, winner of The Awareness Film Festival Visionary Award and Film Festival Flix Regional Competition, will make a special appearance. Meet our Grand Marshalls: Shoestring City Ranch and a bevy of beasts, including horses, goats, chickens and rabbits. All proceeds help fund low-cost spay/neuter, medical attention for special needs of shelter animals, and humane education. Admission is free; entry fee for walkers through October 12th, including teams, is $25 for adults 19 and over and includes a commemorative T-shirt, a swag bag, a raffle ticket and a parking pass ($7 value). For information, visit www.folba.org/WALK and click WALK on the menu, or call Friends of Long Beach Animals at 562.988.SNIP (7647).

Halloween Spooktacular, Saturday, Oct. 27, 1–3:30PM, spcaLA Marketplace, 7700 E. Spring St. (in El Dorado Park), Long Beach 90815

Enjoy a safe Halloween for the entire family at this neat event! Dress up your dog or indignant cat and enter contests for best couple, scariest, funniest and best homemade costumes. Then, take your BFF trick-or-treating at vendors from Honest Kitchen, Sweat Scoop, Plato Dog Treats, and Stella & Chewy’s, enjoy prize drawings, agility “playground” equipment and contests like best trick, bobbing for “apples,” and hide-a-treat game, courtesy of spcaLA Animal Behavior and training department. For more information, click here.

Donations Needed for Animal Care Services, Pitchford Animal Companion Village, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, (562) 570-PETS

ACS thanks everyone who provided donations for their wish list! The list has been further winnowed down; if you feel generous or just have any of the following items around your house, bring them to the shelter (and take home a pet, if you are so inclined!).

  • wet food for cats and kittens
  • wet food for dogs and puppies
  • Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls. See examples here.
  • Two trash cans for our play yards that open with a foot press. See an example here. 

Breaking Pet-Lines

Watch a video of our most faithful reader, Dan Lubniewski (aka Birdman) in action on the Rescue Showcase, titled “The Great Animal Rescue Chase”! This is but one of his tireless efforts.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”