Hwy 9 Pet Store and Grooming
Hwy 9 Pet Store and Grooming owner Erica Costella, with her border collie Zia, is hosting an official opening for the full-service grooming salon in Ben Lomond on April 6. (Contributed)

When Ben Lomond-bred Erica Costella noticed the marijuana shopkeepers vacating their space next to Henry’s Automotive and Masood’s Liquor & Deli recently, she sprang into action.

“They just closed down and got their stuff out one day,” she said. “I saw they were moving all their stuff out. I was like, ‘Oh, is that going to be an open space there?’”

Costella began her pet-care journey about a decade earlier, and had been thinking about opening up a small business. But she needed a location.

“All the ducks just fell in a row,” said the 27-year-old dyed-in-the-wool mountain girl.

On Saturday, April 6, Costella will host an official opening for Hwy 9 Pet Store and Grooming, a full-service grooming salon in Ben Lomond.

She’s going to specialize in caring for larger dogs, offer a core haircut-bath-and-brush service and sell leashes, jackets and toys in a front boutique area.

Costella said the genesis of the business venture was getting her own dog off of Craigslist.

“Her name’s Zia,” she said, introducing her border collie. “She has tons of hair so she needs regular grooming.”

Unsurprisingly, Zia quickly became her best friend.

“She’d just had puppies and had some temperament issues,” she recalled. “I took her and now she’s as happy as can be. She goes with me everywhere.”

Costella took an entry-level job at a salon and began working her way up in the industry.

“You get a job as a bather, and they kind of teach you hands-on there,” she explained. “Within a few months you get into grooming. They slowly introduce you into shaving and breed cuts. I went to a few grooming expos, one out of state, and you learn from the competitor groomers that do all the show dogs.”

It doesn’t take long for the position to become all-encompassing.

“This is not just a job,” she said. “There’s just something different about working with dogs than people all day. I don’t know how to explain it. Dogs, they can’t talk back to you really. They’re so loving.”

Costella said she feels a sense of responsibility to provide the best care possible for the pups that are brought in by their owners, and she always tries to treat each pet like they are her own.

Rick Wilson, a 61-year-old who lives in San Jose but is a familiar face around these parts, popped his head into Henry’s, where the interview was taking place, and was happy to see Costella.

“She’s done a little bit of everything in the four-to-five years I’ve known her,” he said, describing Costella as quite the hard worker. “She puts her head down and gets it done.”

Wilson knows how important it is to give your dog quality TLC. He likes to take his German wirehaired pointer on hunting trips.

“She’s a machine,” he said.

“I remember her when she was just a little puppy,” Costella chimed in.

Wilson always cleans his dog thoroughly afterward, “—nose to tail, top to bottom.”

In fact, a pet groomer can come to notice irregularities with your pooch long before a vet ever lays eyes on the loved one.

“You see them more than a vet does, so you can notice some stuff underneath the hair that the owner doesn’t even notice,” she said.

Costella is excited for her new chapter, and to express her personality through the business. She can’t wait to meet her first batch of customers.

But, more importantly, she can’t wait to meet their dogs.

The grand opening of Hwy 9 Pet Store and Grooming will take place from 10am-3pm on Saturday, April 6, at 7932 Highway 9 in Ben Lomond; call 831-207-5395 for more information.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


  1. I like to see this, as I grew up in mt. hermon and Johnny Costella was hunting deer when I was in high school. Unfortunately mt. hermon was a game reserve and some of the deer were mothers and the fauns were simply left without care as the association was busy maintaining cottages for bay area conservative christians as kaiser nibbled away at the sand and sanity with continued beep beeping of landmovers.

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