By:  Merilyn E. Ulrich,
Contributing Editor/Senior Staff Writer
The Hair Society
I owned a bookstore once upon a time and although it wasn’t a hair salon or a place that specialized in hair restoration, it was a “Mom & Pop” business and it was all mine.

The idea of opening my own store had long been a dream of mine and when it was all finished it reminded me of going through the birth process; from gestation to birth and beyond.

Being a professional in the retail business was not my first dream but I loved reading books and knew a lot about my subject so off I went into the mysterious land of retail… not having a real clue as to what was in store for me.
I had to learn about inventory, costs, overhead (salaries for employees, rents, utilities, etc). Adding up the numbers for just those items almost scared me off but I moved onward anyway. I can only imagine what it must be like opening a hair styling salon and/or a hair restoration business. You need so much training and there are so many new methods and products to become familiar with. There are many more employees involved than I had to deal with and probably a larger space to light, heat and maintain. Most of the materials that I sold were on consignment and returnable and I didn’t have to worry about an astronomical water bill like you do. Needless to say, it was costly and scary.

The biggest obstacle in my way was competition. I was a small business competing with huge chain stores who could count on volume and give deep discounts as a result. I could not do this.

What about competition? What about their ability to pay for lots and lots of ads in various mediums like newspapers, magazines and even television commercials? I couldn’t do that either.

Eventually my gestation period was finished and I had my grand opening. It was a proud moment and as I stood behind my counter and sold my first book I was very proud. I hadn’t taken into consideration that I would actually have to deal with a sometimes dissatisfied public who questioned not only my knowledge but my inventory and my pricing. I didn’t take into consideration that people have bad days and that the clerk behind the counter is a handy target for all of those insults… real or imagined that a customer had suffered prior to entering my store. I didn’t count on being called an “idiot” or a myriad of other lovely names that lingered for the remainder of my day.

There were a lot of problems and there were a lot of rewards also. Retail is not for the faint of heart and it certainly isn’t for the inexperienced or untrained.

Having been a proprietor of a retail “Mom & Pop” business I have nothing but respect for all of you who strive every single day to give the best possible customer service to your clients and who work long hours to improve the lives of other people.

You are heroes, all of you and as someone who shared your birth pains in some small way… I take my hat off to you and wish you all well. Just keep that special and unique part of yourself in the forefront and keep offering the best customer service and products possible and you will not only compete with the big stores but better them.

Small businesses and the “Mom & Pop” industry is here to stay even as big chains disappear. Never give up…we are all counting on you.