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My Clients Are Dying

Back before I was in the beauty business, I went to a barber to get my haircut. He had a nice full-service shop with a manicurist, shoe shine guy and himself. He chain-smoked while cutting your hair and told great jokes.

All three sons got their first haircut by Antonio. My thoughts then were one day they too would go to Antonio.

It was kind of fun going to the shop. The waiting area always had donuts and bagels; fresh hot coffee; lots of magazines including Playboy and it was a great place to shoot the bull, talk sports, stocks and whatever else.

When you sat down to get your haircut, the manicurist pulled up, the shoe shine guy took your shoes and Antonio washed your hair. The experience never changed.

Alas I got into the beauty business and Antonio never attended shows, classes or events. I started going to salons that did and started to get my haircut by stylists instead. The experience was different but I was happy to get my haircut by someone who loved to learn and it was nice to walk out not smelling like smoke. It was sad leaving Antonio nevertheless.

Nostalgia struck today as I stopped by Antonio's to say hello. Forty years later, the shop has changed little. The ubiquitous box of Dunkin' Donuts was on the coffee table along with the fresh pot of coffee. The same magazines with 2009 dates on them were displayed and even Playboy was at the shoe shine area. The place still reeked of smoke and the manicurist was doing a customer's nails.

I asked Antonio how business was doing and he said it was good but slower than usual. The reason was because he wasn't getting any new customers and some of his regulars were dying. He went on to say he had another 4 good years and then perhaps he would go to 3 days a week.

Just then the phone rang with a customer calling for an appointment. Like the past 40 years, he wrote the customer's name with a pencil in the ratty appointment book and I knew nothing changed.

He offered me a donut that he knew I wouldn't eat and it was time for me to go. It's part of the industry that we will miss and while it's still open, I think I'll visit more often. One day Antonio's won't be around.

Happy Wednesday!


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