Gigglechops Dog Wash owners Erika Hargadine and Keith Bower are celebrating their distinction as 2018 Small Private Employer of the Year, an award granted by the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment (GCDE).

The self-service dog-washing business opened last December at 2809 Thorndyke Ave. W. Gigglechops is the nickname for Hargadine and Bower’s golden retriever, Winston.

Hargadine’s son has autism, and in February she told the Queen Anne News one reason for opening Gigglechops — other than a love for dogs — was to create a business that employs people who are not neurotypical.

Gigglechops reported 80 percent of its workforce had special needs and/or learning differences as of August.

“Two of the employees were recruited via word of mouth. In one instance, a conversation between one of GDW’s owners and a local restaurant manager about GDW’s mission was overheard by a parent, which led to an interview and subsequent hire,” according to the award nomination entry form. “In the other instance, a recommendation from a bartender at the nearby public house, who was aware of GDW’s mission, led to our second hire.”

The 26th annual Governor’s Employer Awards are decided by a GCDE awards subcommittee, which considered 22 employer and eight individual nominations this year.

Gigglechops was among just six public and private employers to receive honors during the awards ceremony on Oct. 17.

The nomination form states Gigglechops began paying employees a $15-an-hour wage prior to the City of Seattle requiring it, and that the small business offers employees advancement and leadership opportunities where possible.

Gigglechops Dog Wash is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. The cost for one dog wash is $19, or $17 each for two or more in the same tub, any size. For more information, visit