Exercise venues aren’t just for humans anymore.
A local gay couple is set to prove just that when opening an innovative new training and fitness business for dogs and their owners in two weeks. They are also inviting LGBT dog owners and their best friend to the first “Doggie Disco” social event scheduled in March at their Zoom Room storefront location in Rockville.
The past five years in the life of 47-year-old Cathedral Heights D.C. resident Steve Mulder have brought a lot of change. Changes that have made him and Jean-Louis Marechal, his partner of more than four years, excited about their shared entrepreneurial future.
Mulder, a self-described “people person” looking forward to assisting dog owners, will operate the business. Marechal will handle administrative management tasks when not working as a computer consultant.
Like many budding entrepreneurs, Mulder’s inspiration for a local business venture sprang from his own awareness of a marketplace need, leading him to make the leap into enterprise engagement.
After adopting a mixed-breed Australian Shepherd shelter dog named Abby a year ago, the couple discovered that there were limited and unsatisfactory options for training and exercising the newest addition to their home. Formerly married, Mulder also has a 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter.
After 20 years working as a lobbyist specializing in international trade and tax concerns of agricultural producers, Mulder grew weary of his professional routine and the entrenched political gridlock that is official Washington. He started looking for a change.
Mulder began revealing his sexual orientation to friends and soon met Marechal and fell in love. Later came Abby. They found that full-facility dog training and exercise options didn’t exist. Discovering the four-year-old California-based Zoom Room operation, with more than a dozen locations and quickly growing, the duo purchased the D.C. area franchise.
What impressed Mulder most was the unique business model. Owners don’t simply drop-off their dogs, but become an integral part of their pet’s development and fitness regimen. In addition to bonding with their pet, they meet and interact with other owners. Free coffee and WiFi-enabled bar seating also allows owners to observe trainer-led sessions from afar.
The nearly 3,000 sq. ft. facility, located in ground level retail space on a prominent commercial thoroughfare, features free parking. The business will offer a wide range of exercise and training opportunities, as well as one-on-one and group classes with trainers, all at affordable pay-as-you-go prices with no membership fees. There are options for all ages and types of dogs.
Activities include coaching in agility, obedience and scent discrimination, as well as therapy instruction, puppy preschool, senior stretch classes, scent tracking, and shy dog training. For active dogs, Zoom Room’s trademark Canine Cross-Training class gives both owner and their companion a workout. There are also core strength workouts – and yes, “Pup-lates.”
Mulder and Marechal are heartened by the strong interest of area pet owners, including District residents, and excited by cross-promotional offers from nearby businesses. The scent of success is intermingling with the signature Doggie Donuts at the front counter.
They are likely to soon be barking with enthusiasm, alongside some very pleased pups and discerning dogs – and their delighted masters.
Zoom Room will host a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Feb. 15, at 12 p.m. The public is invited to an open house featuring demonstrations and free dog agility classes on Saturday, Feb.16, with a kick-off party from 3-7 p.m. Opening day is free but requires advance registration. A $10 donation to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue will be made for each dog participating.
The first Zoom Room LGBT “Doggie Disco” will be held Thursday, March 21, from 7-8:30 p.m. This special event is open to all and admission is free, but advance registration is required. Music, laser lights and disco ball, dancing, complementary refreshments and dog treats will be featured.
Zoom Room is located in Rockville, Md., at 11771 Rockville Pike, at Old Georgetown Road, one block from the White Flint Metro. Event registration and facility information is available online at: http://ZoomRoomOnline.com/Rockville
Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.