The Noggin Blog


A charming new barber shop opened up around the corner from me recently and, the three times I’ve passed by it this week, I’ve noticed the same two guys — presumably the coiffeurs in the flesh — sitting in an otherwise empty waiting area, chatting, reading the newspaper, waiting.

This business will be closed in six months and, were I to talk to these entrepreneurs, I’m certain they would lament about how difficult it was to run a small business, how there was too much competition or how young people just don’t appreciate barbers anymore. And I would have to agree with them: it’s certainly tough to run a small business sitting your ass in the front window reading a newspaper.

I see it all the time. Stores or restaurants manned by owners or staff hunched over the cash counter or standing at the entrance, cleaning their cuticles, watching people potential customers walk by. These folks seem to be under the mistaken impression that, because they’ve built it, people will come, as if the only thing you need to draw someone into your store is a cheaply made and questionably designed sign above a badly windexed window.

Sorry budding entrepreneurs but customers need a reason to discover you. It might be the excitement of fashionable styles or progressive design. The promise of a one-of-a-kind vintage find. Superior craftsmanship. Utter deliciousness. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of quirky humor — like the sandwich board above — to capture your customers’ attention long enough to reel them in.

Harvey Milk wrote: “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… and you… and you… gotta give ’em hope.”

Or a tempting BOGO sale or a bring-your-friend introductory offer. But, for godsakes, give ’em something.