The look on Charlie's face is one of complete contentment. But why wouldn't it be? He's getting rubbed, scrubbed, primped and pampered.

This, however, is no fancy salon or day spa. It's Mutts & Co., where the pampering is reserved for pets.

The Dublin business is the brainchild of 43-year-old Deborah Vitt. She's the first to admit it's not an original idea, but her spin on something commonly found on the West Coast-and, according to Vitt, harder to come by in Columbus. "We moved here and had a tough time finding a place to wash our dogs," she said.

A job with J.P. Morgan lured Vitt's husband, Mark, to Central Ohio. "As much as we loved San Francisco, we decided that this would be a better place to raise our family," she said. So the couple, along with two young sons and two big dogs, packed up and shipped out.

Vitt-who had a background in retail, and spent time at both Gap and Bath & Body Works-decided that instead of taking a job immediately, she needed time to think about what she really wanted to do with her life.

"I didn't want to go back into corporate America," she said. "I wanted to spend my time on something I loved."

Her passion was clear: Vitt had long worked with animal rescue organizations, and devoted much of her time and attention to finding loving homes for animals without them. After a year of research, and a lot of time spent on message boards, Mutts & Co.-a store and pet grooming studio where owners can do the scrubbing themselves or leave it to the experts-was born.

Customers praise the shop as friendly and accommodating, even special ordering items when wanted.

"I do everything there," said Kristi Grubbs, who lives in Dublin and owns KG Interiors. "I have my puppy groomed at Mutts & Co. I just go visit because they love my dog and I love them. My dog knows when we pull up to the building. He loses his mind."
It was a success from its 2007 opening.

"We've been profitable since the first year, which is shocking to most people," Vitt said. "I think it's because customers feel the same way about their animals as they do about their children."

The business has been so successful that this spring, during one of the worst economic slumps in history, Vitt more than doubled the size of Mutts & Co. to accommodate a booming retail business. In the shop, she emphasizes the health and well being of creatures big and small. She stocks all-natural food, treats and dietary supplements-and also offers hard-to-resist toys and accoutrements for the well-dressed pet.

Staying true to her commitment to homeless pets, Vitt sponsors a different rescue organization every month, grooming their animals at no cost.

"When these animals walk out of here, they have a completely different attitude," she said. "It really helps their chance of being adopted."

And Vitt's outlook has never been brighter. She celebrates the lessons she learned by taking a leap of faith. "Don't let fear guide your decision making," she advises. "Fear will lead you down the path unfulfilled and unsatisfied."

Vitt has big plans for what started out as a small company, including an in-store bakery and online store. But she's also thinking even bigger. She hopes to one day operate a multi-store chain. She says the number-one request she gets from customers isn't for a brand of food or a certain dog collar: It's, "When can I get a franchise?"

For more on Mutts & Co., visit MuttsAndCo.com. Watch Andrea Cambern's "Female Focus" at 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays on 10TV News HD.