Matthes has a cat clock on her wall, a cat tattoo behind her ear, and a Hello Kitty cell phone case. She once kissed a tiger, and helped perform a root canal on a lion.
Her passion is evident at Feline Fancy Spa & Hotel, a business she runs on Pearl Street in Braintree, where it is quiet, calm and cats-only (except for Wolf Wednesdays).
Patch features questions with business owners every Monday. See the Feline Fancy Spa & Hotel interview with Matthes below.
What did you do before?
As a child, Matthes wanted to be a veterinarian, but she left before graduating from high school in Salem (she eventually graduated from Weymouth High when her girls were in school).
Before becoming a vet tech and then groomer, Matthes worked a variety of jobs, including as a Burger King manager, and was a stay-at-home mom. When her youngest daughter became a teenager, she began working full-time at the Franklin Park Zoo as a food service manager.
She began applying to veterinary hospitals and landed a job at a local vet hospital. She learned to be a vet tech, moved on to the Weymouth Landing Cat Clinic & Hotel and eventually an animal hospital in Boston, where she still puts in time as a groomer.
Matthes also volunteered for a time at an exotic animal sanctuary in Oklahoma, and an animal sanctuary in Connecticut.
When did you open and what was the biggest challenge?
Feline Fancy Spa & Hotel opened at 89 Pearl St. in January 2011.
Aside from settling on a name (Matthes worked through many iterations in a notebook), the biggest challenge was starting from scratch. Matthes found a location with an adjoining apartment in a complex owned by her Crescent Avenue landlord Bill Frazier.
She moved in after Thanksgiving in 2010 and opened just a few weeks later, building the spa as she went along. Instead of formally advertising, Matthes relied on word-of-mouth and went online to register for every free business directory listing she could find.
Her relationship with the Weymouth Landing clinic also helped. They sent over grooming referrals, and boarders that they couldn't find space for.
"Without them, I don't think I would still be here," Matthes said.
How did you come up with the idea of a cats-only place?
Matthes said she had been thinking about it for some time while working as a vet tech, because clients often looked for a place without dogs but couldn't find any. Then one day she was bit by a cat who became agitated by a barking dog and had surgery for damaged nerves in her finger.
"That pushed it along," she said.
What are the benefits of focusing just on cats?
There are few places in the Boston area that are cats-first. Most groomers, especially, focus on dogs and then also take care of cats because dog owners typically bring their pets in more often.
Matthes has a special affinity for cats that helps her to get to know their personalities and what they can handle in terms of blow drying, hair cuts and boarding strategies.
Feline Fancy offers services by appointment, allowing Matthes to maintain a calm environment.
Or, as Matthes puts it in her website tag line, "Where it is quiet, barkless and your kitty is Queen!!!"
What services do you offer?
Short- and long-hair grooming, lion cuts (the most popular type, Matthes said), nail trimming, specialty baths, bird beak, wing and nail trimming, dog grooming under 30 pounds by appointment on a designated day, and overnight and day boarding.
Matthes also offers in-home pet sitting.
See more at http://www.felinefancysh.com
Do you have any pets?
Matthes' cat Rajjah died last year of cancer after 15 years with her. She has a five-year-old dog, a Chow Chow named Ginger, that she says is very quiet, and two kittens that are nine months old – Romeo and Ella.
What else are you involved with?
Matthes started a social media community called Commonwealth Cat Recovery that aims to connect lost and found cats with their families.
One piece of advice she offers cat owners is to be mindful of how a cat thinks when they first get outside and are lost. They typically stay close to home, and find a relatively warm spot like inside a barn or under a porch.
Matthes advises owners to not approach the cat as may be their first instinct, but instead sit near the cat and talk to it, because at first the animal will revert to survival mode and run if approached.
What's your favorite part of the job?
"The artistry of giving a haircut," Matthes said. "I try to make the cats as comfortable as I can."
If there was one thing you could change to make it easier for small businesses in Braintree, what would it be?
Like many business owners Patch has interviewed, Matthes said she would change the town's signage regulations. She recently found an affordable sign to add visibility to her business and found that she would have to pay a significant fee and possibly seek a variance.
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