Entrepreneur Is On Call To Pamper Your Pooch

Sun Journal, New Bern, N.C.

It's an attractive, two-story structure with rock accents and neatly maintained grounds.

Inside, a friendly staff wearing matching uniforms welcomes you to a spacious lobby with hardwood floors and crown molding.

All of the accommodations are new and spacious, and there are plenty of activities available, including exercise, agility training and -- soon -- swimming in an in-ground pool.

Soft music plays in a background. Security cameras keep everyone safe.

Meals are served on time, and those who decide to spend the night can stay as long as they like.

It's not a fancy new hotel for tourists or a spa for the pampered; it's the new location of Jill's Pet Resort.

The business, which is located at 1508 Old Airport Road, is really three businesses, explains owner Jill Manning Nobles, who, with her husband, Donald, own the new facility.

Jill's offers dog-grooming, where one of seven groomers will wash, cut and style your canine's coat. It also offers day care services for pet owners who do not wish to leave their dogs and cats at home during the workday.

Finally, Jill's offers boarding services for dogs and cats, where pet owners can leave their animals overnight or for a series of nights. Pet owners who believe only the best will do for Fido can choose to quarter their animals in one of two "elite boarding" space, which includes a toddler-sized bed and a big-screen TV.

"A lot has changed since I started," said Nobles, who turns 46 on Friday.

Indeed it has, both for the business of pet care and for Nobles herself.

She is a New Bern native who married a boy from her church youth group at age 17. He had joined the Army, so the newlyweds headed off to Fort Benning, Georgia.

There, her husband gave her a toy poodle to keep her company. She loved the dog, and it gave her an idea: Learn how to groom dogs from the wife of the post's sergeant major.

Nobles said she persuaded the woman to teach her the skill -- and art -- of grooming dogs. She worked for free for six months, then was hired.

"I fell in love with it," Nobles said.

When Donald left the Army, the couple moved to Atlanta. There, he attended school, and she got a job at a vet's office. She was hooked.

Three daughters soon arrived, and the family moved back to New Bern, where Nobles' mother operated a bakery called Laura's Cakes.

She began grooming dogs, moved into a space off U.S. 70, then, as the business grew, to another spot off Kale Road and, finally, to her new location, which she and her husband designed after visiting several similar businesses. - Over the years, Jill's has developed a loyal clientele.

"I love my customers," Nobles said with a smile.

She suggests her business, and the pet services industry in general, have grown because of several factors, including an increasing number of childless individuals and couples who have pets. The growing number of empty nesters who get pets when their children move away and retirees who have a dog or cat for company also contribute significantly to the boom, Nobles believes.

"They get a new baby when all the other babies are gone," she said with a smile.

And just like a new baby, pets are members of the family in many people's homes and therefore deserve top-quality care. Nobles said she and her staff work hard to get to know their customers and their pets. There are also some new faces around the business.

Kathy Warner brought her 9-month-old dog "Boomer" for his first grooming on Thursday. She said she could brush his coat and tend to him in some ways, but his first real grooming "calls for a professional," Warner said.

She was pleased with how Boomer was treated and how his first grooming made him look. For his part, Boomer seemed energized by his neat new appearance, although his groomer said he had been well-behaved in the grooming room.

Jill's employs about 23 people, including a mix of full- and part-timers. All of the staffers (except Donald) are women, although there have been male employees over the years.

Nobles says she is thankful for his support her business has received and is looking forward to the future.

"I look at it as a big blessing," she said. "I think the Lord's really blessed us."

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