About Antonio Vasquez & Magic Paws Grooming and Photography
I met Antonio Vasquez while attending Pratt Institute. Years later, he took his love of animals and started Magic Paws, a full service pet grooming salon and photography studio in Long Island, offering affordable, custom services in a calm and soothing environment.
What’s your favorite part about working with pets?
My most favorite part of working with pets is the natural calming effect animals have on humans. Although the grooming shop itself can be a very chaotic environment, for the most part working with pets is a very relaxing and soothing experience.
What sparked your interest in grooming and now photographing pets?
One morning in May of 2005, I stopped at 7/11 for my morning cup of coffee and there in the parking lot was this little puff ball teddy bear looking Pomeranian/Corgi mix. It was all by itself and we were on the corner of an major 8 lane highway intersection, I called it over and he came right to me as if looking for help. I took care of him for about 2 days before I found his owners and brought him home. I enjoyed having a furry little creature around so I began searching the internet for local puppy breeders. I came across Sharon Yampiero from Great River Poms and that summer I brought home my very first pup Luna-Sea. About 6 months later I found myself unemployed and Luna-Sea needed to be groomed for the first time. I stopped in at the local Petco and inquired about getting a lion cut on my dog and they quoted me $65-$80 for her grooming which was out of my price range. Back to the internet I went and looked up some grooming videos and then Luna and myself headed to the outside patio to attempt our very first grooming. About 5 hours later a freshly washed, cut and fluffed dried Pomeranian that really looked like a lion was prancing around the house. I continued to research grooming on the web and found an ad for Petco offering to send people to grooming school in exchange for working for the company for a contracted amount of time. I was accepted into the grooming academy and started working for Petco as groomer about 3 months later. This is what sparked my interest in grooming, but my interest in photography was sparked while trying to create a portfolio of my grooming work. After opening Magic Paws I needed an updated portfolio to show potential customers samples of my work. I began taking pictures of the pets after they were groomed, on the lobby couch with my iPhone and posting the photos on the salons Facebook page. The pictures were a big hit on Facebook throughout the first year, so while contemplating what to do for the one year anniversary of the shop I decided to explore photography on a professional level.
You studied fashion at Pratt. How do you think your traditional fashion education plays into the new fields you have explored?
I think my traditional fashion education plays a great role in my new fields, the accessories I create now are just fluffier and have the ability to poop on command. All joking aside, I may not use the textbook fashion education I received but I do use all of the artistic and styling knowledge I gained while at Pratt. The fashion program focused on using technical drawings, scissors and fabric to create garments for humans, now I use technical drawings, scissors and fur to create outer garments for dogs. One could argue that I never left the fashion field, I simply just specialize in hand sculpting fur garments for dogs.
What made you decide to start your own business?
My entire grooming career was spent climbing up the corporate ladder. I started as a groomer then became a salon manager and finally was promoted to the academy instructor. My career ultimately plateaued within the corporation and I began working long hard hours for a boss that was all about the “numbers game” of the business. There was no pleasure in what I was doing anymore, it was a factory that made money. I felt that I wasn’t being compensated for all the hard work I was doing and during the christmas rush of December 2012, my friend and fellow groomer approached me and jokingly asked if I wanted to open a shop together. That joke turned into a conversation in the lunch room and six weeks later was made real when we signed the lease to the shop.
I’m sure it’s not always quiet furry creatures. What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing pets?
Meeting someone’s pet for the first time is usually the biggest challenge when photographing pets. These animals don’t know you or understand what you are trying to do to them. Being patient and having a calm demeanor are all qualities needed for a job like this.
Is it hard at the end of the day to say goodbye to the pets?
It can be at times, for the most part all the pets are going home to loving parents so it is very easy to say goodbye at the end of the day. There are times when there is just one little cute fuzzball that you just want to keep and take home but that would be bad for business.
What is your most memorable moment at Magic Paws so far?
The most memorable moment at Magic Paws would be the opening of the store. It was a period of 4 months that was filled with a rainbow of bi-polar emotions that ranged from being so stressful we were brought to tears, to the ultimate gratifying feeling of completing the project.
Where do you see your career in 5,10 years?
I hope to find myself in a position where the business can sustain itself with the staff running the storefront, while I explore other avenues of creativity. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things so I wouldn’t be surprised if another creative company is formed.
What was the best advice you have received? (or a bit of advice for the reader)
The best advice I can offer your reader would be to believe in your talent and ally yourself with other people who share your vision. I found that my business life is a lot easier having a partner in crime. Some goals require a team to achieve so learning to accept help when you need it was the best lesson I’ve learned.