After Kate DeBrino of Westport washed Coco, her Jack Russell terrier, in one of three washing stations at the back of the Pet Valu in Norwalk Saturday, June 8, during its grand opening event, she said it was "a great experience."

"I would definitely recommend it, especially for the cost, and it's an easy thing to do yourself," she said. DeBrino said she used to wash Coco at her home, but the bathroom got filled with hair, and cleaning up was a chore.

"You don't have that here," she said. "We would definitely bring her back here."

Pet Valu, at 55 Westport Ave., drew a large crowd to its new Norwalk store.

MJ Giordani, a district manager at the Wayne, Pa.-based chain of pet supply stores, said the store at 55 Westport Ave. was the company's 104th and that Pet Valu is opening more stores in Fairfield County and Long Island, N.Y., this summer. The stores are now mostly in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.

"We are entering into the Fairfield County market," Giordani said.

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The chain opened a Ridgefield store at Copps Hill Plaza on Danbury Road a month ago and a location in Darien's Goodwives Shopping Center on Old Kings Highway North two weeks ago. "We do a lot of research before we go into a market, and we felt this market could support another pet store."

Giordani said Pet Valu is different from other pet supply stores because it has stations where customers can bring their pets and wash them for a $10 fee.

"For $10, you can wash your own dog or any type of pet. We provide the shampoo, aprons, towels and dryers, and the best part is, we clean up after you," she said. "We have a lot of people that come in with their kids and wash their dogs."

Norwalk residents Jon Rothenberg and his girlfriend Sindy Lighthouse, who washed their 60-pound mutt, Safi, said they enjoyed the self-wash feature as well. "It's better than our own house," Rothenberg said.

Lighthouse said the self-wash feature, where pets stand in large sinks and are then dried with towels and air hoses, was easy and saved them money. She said Safi handled the experience well.

"Once she knew we were staying with her and washing her, she was much better. She stopped shaking and smiled," Lighthouse said.

Lighthouse said they also buy Safi's dog food at Pet Valu, which had its soft opening two weeks ago, and that she liked the atmosphere of the store.

"The atmosphere here is very nice. When you walk in, it's really warm and the manager is really friendly and knowledgeable," she said. "I feel like you would get more advice " than the other places."

Giordani said Pet Valu's Norwalk store has six full-time and part-time employees and that they go through pet nutrition training via an online course from the University of California at Davis so they can help customers decide which pet food to buy. The store also has a full-service groomer and that some customers on Saturday, after washing their pets, brought them to the groomer to get their nails clipped.

Representatives of Bully Breed Rescue of New Canaan also were on hand at the opening. The organization brought two pit bulls to the store to see if anyone was interested in adopting them.

Heidi Lueders, president of Bully Breed Rescue, said a lot of people liked meeting Beau, 3, and Seven, 2, though no one as of early Saturday afternoon had expressed interest in adopting them.

"People definitely wanted to pet him and hang out with him," Lueders said of Beau, the larger of the two dogs. "The positive response from people has been great. Everyone has touched them and loved them, and the dogs have been great as well."

Giordani said Pet Valu doesn't sell pets, but plans to have a rescue organization at the store every weekend, depending on the rescue organizations' availability. "We plan on working with all of the rescues in the area -- dogs, cats, it could be anything," she said.

For information about store locations and hours, check the website,