Dogfather Jerry Schinberg unleashed new era for grooming pros – Maureen O’Donnell
Back in 1973, when dog groomers were largely viewed as beauty school drop-outs, he started one of the first conventions for the trade, according to the book, “How to Start a Home-Based Pet Grooming Business.”
Over the next 40 years, the industry expanded into a billion-dollar-plus enterprise and his All American Grooming Show grew into the biggest in the Midwest and the longest-running grooming convention in the world.
Mr. Schinberg could be picked out by his big grin and the silly red, white and blue hats he wore at the “All American” event. “He made it fun,” said Todd Shelly, whose Barkleigh Productions bought the rights to the convention a few years ago. “You weren’t at the show with all of your competitors. You were there with your peers — people that shared the same passion.”
Mr. Schinberg helped develop the grooming equivalent of the U.S. Olympic team, GroomTeam USA, composed of elite winners of multiple competitions. They go on to vie in international contests, a feat that can catapult careers, Shelly said. In 2013, the team brought home a gold medal from Barcelona.
Mr. Schinberg, 75, of Des Plaines, died Dec. 20 at ManorCare in Arlington Heights. He had battled diabetes, heart ailments and colon and pancreatic cancer.
Groomer to Groomer magazine called him “one of the most influential people in the history of the grooming industry.”
He was “The Father of Grooming Shows,” according to petshops.about.com.
In 2011, he was honored with a lifetime achievement “Groomy,” an award from the New Jersey-based American Grooming Industry Foundation Trust.
“Jerry was a champion for groomer education and helping groomers become more professional,” said Linda Easton, president of the International Professional Groomers association. “His passing will leave a huge gap in the leadership of our profession.”
“People say they look up to me,” he once told groomertogroomer.com, “and all I can think is, ‘I’m just a plain old guy.’ ”
Born in Maywood, California, Mr. Schinberg grew up in Chicago and Skokie. He graduated from Von Steuben High School and learned pet grooming from a friend’s father. As a young man, he acted with the Encore theater troupe but decided to focus on the pet industry when he opened his shop, A Tondeur, a salon on Milwaukee Avenue in Niles. He even groomed cats — and rabbits.
He met Sally Schapiro on a ski trip. In a video on groomertogroomer.com, he recalled, “She said to me, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘I’m a dog groomer.’ And she said, ‘a WHAT?’ ” They spent their first date working at a dog obedience show.
They wed in 1967. “Jerry wasn’t the life of the party — he was the party,” said a longtime friend, Holly Kahan. “He and Sally have been our theater dates, travel mates, card game partners, recipe testers, and on and on.”
He never had to resort to sedating dogs and cats to groom them, said his daughter, Denise.
“He was just so good with them. He was like an animal whisperer,” she said. “They had small muzzles if the dog was really out of hand.”
Though he loved dogs, Mr. Schinberg didn’t own any as an adult. “The reason why is my dad trained dogs; he did obedience and he boarded dogs at the house,” his daughter said. “We always had at least one dog at the house.” When clients took winter vacations, “We might have as many as 11 dogs in our big backyard.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Schinberg is survived by another daughter, Jill; a sister, Cheryl Mendelsohn, a brother, Herb, and one grandson. His services, which drew poodle-shaped flower arrangements, have been held.