Tru Blu K9000 is marketing DIY dog-washing stations out of Wilmington.
WILMINGTON — It may be one of the most unique businesses to ever open a Wilmington headquarters: a company that builds state-of-the-art machines for washing dogs.
Australia-based Tru Blu K9000 has opened its U.S. headquarters at 4305 Oleander Drive. The 13-year-old company is known worldwide for producing self-contained, do-it-yourself dog washing stations, 1,600 of which can be found throughout Australia and Europe. Now, the company is reaching out to U.S. buyers from its Wilmington office.
Paul Baron, the company’s North America CEO, connected with the company a few years ago while researching pet products. A Wilmington resident and dog-lover, Baron mentors business students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
When friend and Tru Blu K9000 founder Tim Darmanin asked Baron to head up the company’s U.S. expansion, Baron insisted on the Port City.
“I came upon this, and I’d never seen anything like it,” he said. “Tim wanted me in California, but I said, ‘if you want me, you’ve got to be here.’”
The new Wilmington headquarters in not just a place to wash your dog, it’s where businesses of all kinds can buy a K9000 of their own. Baron said the company markets the machines to veterinarian officers, apartment complexes, pet-friendly hotels, parks and campgrounds and any other businesses that see four-legged customers.
Businesses that buy the machines can set their own price for washes, but K9000′s standard is $10 for 10 minutes. Baron said if placed outside, the machines can give companies a revenue stream outside of normal business hours.
“At two dog washes a day, they are profitable for the person who buys them,” Baron said.
Baron demonstrated the technology — a glass-fronted, open-top container — with his Portuguese Water Dog puppy, Larry. Baron opened the front of the K900 and let Larry jump inside; a leash can be clipped to the container for restless dogs. After scanning a credit card, Baron selected his wash cycles: shampoo, rinse, condition, flea control and blow-dry. Larry, excitable and loud outside of the washer, calmed down when the soapy water hit him.
Darmanin said in his native Australia, the K9000s have become so popular that it’s unusual for a new pet store or car wash to open without one. With orders coming in from places like Florida, Georgia and Alabama, he’s hopeful American customers get used to seeing the machines.
“It’s completely in line with the trends of business and the trends of people — we want to get more things done in one location,” Darmanin said.