Look North Grooming & Training Centre appears to have a knack for producing winners whether it’s awards for its successive owners or competition wins for the many groomers who have passed through its doors for training.

Jack and Diana

Look North started life as a pet shop with the original name of ‘The Pet Shop’ when Jack Pask bought it in 1965. Two years down the line and prompted by the challenge to improve on a poor job done on a friend’s dog, Jack decided to give grooming a go and so started running a grooming salon alongside the retail side of the business. Ten years on he sold the business to bored housewife Diana North. Jack spent time teaching Diana to groom and run the shop before handing the reins over, though initially he may have had a few doubts about her skills as a groomer as she started training at a grooming school but left after a week, having been told by the tutor that she would never make a groomer! Jack was awarded a lifetime achievement award in 2006 by the Pet Care Trade Association and this month celebrates his 102 birthday – happy birthday Jack!

Young Alison & Joanne

Diana discovered her niche running The Pet Shop and grooming salon and in the summer of 1978 took Joanne Angus and Alison Thomas on as Saturday girls, initially just in the pet shop. In 1984 the lease was up on the shop so Diana moved to bigger premises and changed the business name to Look North Dog Grooming to concentrate solely on grooming. Under Diana’s careful guidance both Joanne and Alison became an important part of the business as well as accomplished groomers. Alison won the first-ever Newcomers class at Groomer of the Year in 1986 and Joanne went on to win numerous awards, including Eurogroom Champion and Groomer of the Year on more than one occasion. Joanne concentrated on increasing her portfolio of qualifications, gaining the highest accolade of Licentiateship of City & Guilds Institute (LGCI). Alison took a break from the grooming industry in 1987 but returned in 1988 to concentrate on the ‘business’ side of the training school and salon as Joanne’s business partner when Diana retired. During her career at Look North Diana won many awards as a groomer and also became a founder member of both the British Dog Grooming Association and the Guild of Master Groomers. Her dedication to the grooming industry is legendary and over the years she’s become one of the key influencers in establishing recognised qualifications for the industry. Deservedly, she was the first person to receive a lifetime achievement award at the recent inaugural Liz Paul Awards.

Look North Training celebrated success in its own right this year winning UK Grooming School 2013 at the Liz Paul Awards and Look North lead tutor Zoe Duffy was a finalist in two categories.

Zoe & Student

Zoe Duffy joined the business on work experience from school, then became a Saturday girl and then went on to be trained by Joanne as a professional groomer. Zoe continued to work at Look North for the next seven years before leaving to teach at a grooming college. As the business continued to grow and demand for training increased Zoe re-joined the team as its main tutor and has been training numerous aspiring groomers ever since. Zoe has also won numerous awards including Groomer of the Year, European Grand Champion and Intergroom USA.Today the business is very much a team effort with Zoe and Joanne supported by Chris Swain (LGCI) as head stylist and Pippa Murray as tutor’s assistant. Chris also started his career at Look North on work experience, then Saturday work before joining full time. He’s been with the company 10 years and is currently completing his City & Guilds higher diploma. Today they are the only grooming school to have three LCGI awards amongst their staff and their experience at competing seems to give groomers the competitive edge as many students have gone on to win awards at competitions.

The Look North Team with their Award: Back, L - R Chris Swain, Alison Thomas, Joanne Angus Front, L - R Pippa Murray, Zoe Duffy
Look North Team L-R Chris Swain, Pippa Murray, Alison Thomas, Zoe Duffy, and Joanne Angus

All the training happens within the busy salon so students learn what it’s like to work in a real business. Students also get a good taste of  the communication between customer and groomer giving them an insight into the responsibilities of running a salon as well as the difficulties that are sometimes encountered – an invaluable insight for those thinking of setting up their own businesses, which the majority aspire to. “As a private school, we not only offer City & Guilds qualifications but breed specific training,” says Joanne. “All our training is designed to suit individual needs and to date all students taking exams have passed with merit or distinction.”

Whilst the training is going on they are also grooming 15 – 20 dogs to a very high standard every day. Although they are situated in the heart of Keighley the majority of their clients come from the surrounding villages about five to 10 miles away. “We get anything and everything – Lhasas, Westies, designer dogs, Schnauzers, cockers, Labradors, German Shepherds,” says Joanne, “which means all our students get to learn about all sorts, including difficult dogs. This is the bread and butter of most grooming businesses. Grooming is a tough business; to succeed you’ve got to have a lot of patience, be dedicated and be prepared to put in a lot of hard work.”

And the Look North legacy goes on….recently Alison’s daughter Abbie started work as a Saturday girl in the salon and older sister Rebecca spent some time helping out in the offices before going off to university. Will they be the next generation to maintain Look North’s winning streak.