Jorge Cortez had a thriving business for many years but when the pandemic affected his livelihood as a food vendor at Veijas Arena at San Diego State University, he reinvented himself. Thanks to the encouragement of a friend who owns a grooming business, Cortez decided to change directions and give something new a try. Cortez first got some experience grooming dogs and subsequently took classes to became a groomer.
His friend had a big role in his decision. “I saw what he was doing and said ‘what do I need to do?’” remembers Cortez.
Cortez recently opened Fifi’s Grooming on old Palm Avenue. A friend, who is a realtor and owns the building, told Cortez about the space which was previously part of the water store, still next door. Cortez took the lease and remodeled the shop himself. “I had a budget. I stuck to it and started the remodel in December,” he said.
Cortez was an elementary school teacher in San Diego and Chula Vista for18 years. He later ran a Mexican food truck until he became a vendor at Viejas Arena where he and his wife cooked for as many as 12,000 people per game. The couple had a profitable business.
“We were very, very happy, but from being on top we went to zero. My business was completely gone with all the universities online and no sporting events,” he recalled.
As a dog lover he and his wife have rescued dogs over the years. In fact, he currently owns six dogs. His groomer friend gave him the encouragement to try something new and told him, “Do it without the fear of being successful,” Cortez recalled.
Being a new business in town, Cortez works on an average of three to four dogs a day with the goal of reaching 10 a day. Although with Fifi’s Grooming being so new, it does not have internet presence yet, but many have discovered the shop just by walking by and seeing the sign. The interior of the grooming shop has four stations. Although Cortez is currently working alone, the shop has potential for expansion with more groomers working alongside each other. Cortez’s plan is to create jobs and hire someone for the front desk.
Cortez loves animals and likes to see the wagging tails of his happy four legged customers. The grooming services at the shop include shampoo and conditioning, cleaning of the eye area, no cage dry, paw pad trim, anal gland express, clip and grind nails, brush and fluff. Prices start at $45. He also offers extra services like skin conditioning, de-matting, flea treatments and nail clipping.
Cortez enjoys working on dogs and the transformation that he can bring about. “I’m very happy being around different dogs, seeing the transformation, when they come in with low self-esteem. They must feel like humans after taking a shower and putting on clean clothes. The dogs smile at you,” he said.
Cortez also enjoys seeing the dog owners happy with the results.
Although the pandemic made him take a different turn, Cortez is moving on. “The bills don’t stop. I was a professional, had my own business. I had to think outside the box. I moved forward to the new adventure, the new journey,” he said. Cortez encourages everyone to not be afraid. “Without fear, go for it,” he said.
As the business grows, Cortez plans to offer hourly pet sitting and more extended hours. He would like to fix the backyard, where the dogs can hang out after their owners drop them off. His ideas include making the front of the shop inviting with a canopy and a dog area in the front.
Fifi’s Grooming, 236 Palm Avenue. For appointment call (619) 646-0530. Hours: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays by appointment only.