By James Maher
Name: Kim Gallagher
Occupation: Owner, Unleashed Pet Spa
Location: 218 Avenue B (between 13th and 14th)
Time: 2 p.m. on Sept. 2
I’ve lived all over the country. My father was in the record business and he started in a really tiny market and he aspired to get to the biggest one, which is obviously Manhattan. So we went from tiny city, to bigger city, bigger city, until he ended up in Manhattan.
I moved into the East Village in 2004, via the West Village. I had a friend who lived over here and every time I visited him I was so jealous. We would walk around and it felt like a neighborhood and a community. At that time, I didn’t feel the same way about the West Village, so we made the decision to jump ship and come over here. I had moved so much. I had never lived anywhere for very long, and it was the first time that I ever felt part of the neighborhood and part of the community. I’m never going to leave.
I started Unleashed seven years ago, in 2008. I was actually in the corporate world. I was a pharmaceutical rep. My husband died, which was obviously traumatic and I went through this big thing where I quit my career and questioned everything I was doing and why I was doing it, and kind of wandered for a bit. I then decided… I felt that I was taking from people and I wanted to do something that made people happy, so I wanted to change everything about my life.
That’s what gave me the idea to open a dog spa. I have two dogs of my own and they played a big part in the idea to open a grooming shop because I couldn't really find a place to take them. I also noticed there was a need for it. I live on 12th Street between A and B and I had heard the rumors that Stuy Town was about to allow dogs and there was really nowhere in the neighborhood to get your dog groomed. This place had been an ice cream store and it was 500 square feet. It seemed like the perfect spot.
It was scary because I did it on my own. My son designed the logo when he was 13. I had never owned my own business and I did everything myself. During the first year, days would go by where nobody came in, but as time went on things progressed and it got busier and busier. It got less scary and each day I learned something new and kind of just grew with it. It eventually became much easier and much more fun. I feel like we’ve become part of the community as a whole and especially the dog community.
Petco just opened a boutique store [on Second Avenue] and their sign says Unleashed and then sideways very small it says, by Petco, and in big letters it says Dog Wash. The sign reads, Unleashed Dog Wash. We’re Unleashed Spa. My fear is that it’s going to create a lot of customer confusion.
I think that people are finally beginning to frown upon these big corporations, who are hiding the fact that they’re a big corporation. I live in this neighborhood. We’re part of this neighborhood and community and continue to work that way. I’m not quite sure what to do about it. They have all the money in the world and I have one location. My son and I both own the store now. It’s just the two of us.
In the East Village we’ve been so lucky to have so many small, independently owned shops, and the only way we’re going to keep them is if we are loyal to them — if we go out of our way to make a point of shopping at them. Stick to those mom-and-pop shops. Keep the small businesses in the East Village alive. It’s so important.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.