By Art Gallagher
I was surprised on Saturday morning as I headed south on Rt 35 in Ocean Township for the grand opening of Green Leaf Pet Resort and Hotel. There was a line of cars several blocks long down 35 to get into the place! The surprises kept coming when I pulled in. It was packed outside. Two radio stations were broadcasting from the front parking lot along side the bbq pit. The valets were directing traffic instead of parking cars for tips and there were hundreds of happy people and dogs coming and going.
This was no ordinary kennel opening. When did kennels start having grand openings? When are crowds of people happy and not competing for some imaginary prize at a highway location in New Jersey? Where did all of these well behaved dogs and people come from? I only heard one dog bark loudly during my visit and that was in the back parking lot. Who serves hamburgers at a kennel opening and why aren’t the dogs begging for the people food?
There were more surprises when I got inside the facility that I once knew as Ocean Fitness Center. It was not too surprising to see some heavy hitters from the Monmouth County business and political communities present. Vito Cardinale, one of the partners, can be very persuasive and persistent. He got me to squeeze in a visit between two other events on a busy Saturday.
The lobby was crowded with happy human and canine visitors. Welcoming employees uniformed in black, white and green were offering tours and distributing gifts. It is a nicer lobby than that of many hotels I’ve visited, complete with a front desk and gift shop…they call it the Pawtique.
Besides all the happy people and dogs, two things struck me as surprising about Green Leaf. Despite being open for business for three weeks already, the facility did not smell like dogs. That, and the floors are soft.
Amber, who introduced herself as the hotel manager, explained that the facility has an antimicrobial air filtration system, UV filters and special flooring that is good for dogs’ paws and prevents injury. The fresh air gave me an energy boost and the floor felt good under my feet. I’ve never heard of indoor UV filters and I didn’t ask.
The facility has training rooms, a grooming room, play/exercise rooms, and a stainless steel kitchen. The pool is a lot nicer, and cleaner, than I remember it from its Ocean Fitness days. The ‘hotel rooms’ in Majestic Court 2, which are available for extended and short stays, are clean with glass walls and comfortable looking beds. Not to mention the clean air and the soft floors.
The Ocean location is the second Monmouth County facility operated by owners Shelly and Donna Liebowitz. Their 55 acre facility in Millstone opened in 2011. Donna said she was hopeful, but not surprised, by the enthusiastic response to their new facility. They know they are doing it right and providing services that exceed expectations.
The reviews on facebook are outstanding for the Millstone facility. I expect similar raves for the Ocean Township facility.