Every once in a while, before the shop opens, I like to sit in our old theatre chairs and look around the shop and inventory what needs to be done, what we still need to get, and imagine how well Chris is going to do that day. Whenever it seems like an overwhelming mount of things need to get done, I remember where we came from and am instantly humbled by our road to where we are now.
Every once in a while, someone will sit in the chair to get a haircut and Chris will ask them what they do and sometimes they say they're a fabricator/welder/machinist. Chris won't come out and say it, but he used to be a fabricator too. When we were first married, Chris built overhead cranes to support our family. At first it was an alright way to work. It paid the bills, it kept us fed, and Chris enjoyed it. It gave him an enormous sense of pride. But as life goes, things started changing and it started to become less enjoyable. He was getting sick more and more, he started becoming unhappy, both our families were always concerned about him, and it bled into our home life. In the Spring of 2015 we finally decided we needed to make a change.
I'm a staunch believer in 'you only have this one life and if you're not making the most of it, your wasting it'. I was not going to let my family live this life unhappy and sick and I damn sure wasn't going to spend half of my life without my husband from an accident or sickness, when he promised me at least 60 years together. So he quit. We drove out to the barber school in Lansing, and with some serious convincing that we would make it work and we needed to have faith that this was our road, and financial help from family, Chris enrolled.
To make a long story short enough that you don't get bored, it was a stressful, but thankful time for us when Chris went to school. We still had bills that needed paying so we opened a wedding photography business that paid some of them and our families graciously helped us with what we couldn't afford. We are still so thankful to all of our photo clients and families for their support that it makes me want to cry.
After barber school, we didn't really know what our next step should be, so Chris took a job at a shop near Lansing that looked like a safe bet. Unfortunately, it wasn't. It started slipping and we started realizing that we would have to do something else. So we both left our jobs and abruptly moved back to Grand Rapids. Chris took a part time barber job and I started scouring the city for the perfect place for a shop to open.
I accidentally found this place when I called about a property that was $1.4 million. After the agent and I got a good laugh about how that was NEVER going to be in our budget, he asked what we were looking for. When I told him we needed something 900 sqft or less for a barber shop, he got super excited about this place that wasn't available yet, but he thought it would be perfect for what we were looking for. Well Todd (that's the agent), you were right. We snagged this place after meeting with Dan (the landlord, who happens to be the greatest landlord we could have asked for) and it was go time.
We ended up at so many salvage places, random estates, thrift stores, and lumberyards that I lost track of where all we went. All I know is that we found our perfect backbar at Pitsch Salvage and we took this 16 ft hunk of beauty and stuck it in a 10 foot truck bed and strapped it to hell and back and just prayed it would stay in because, you know, broke people struggles. We hauled a set of theatre chairs down a rickety fire escape and just Chris and I moved everything in by ourselves. The two of us moved in two (INCREDIBLY HEAVY AND AWKWARD) barber chairs, the backbar (the homeless neighbors we have watched us with their coffee and laughed at us as we moved this sucker in) and the movie theatre chairs. And it was fun, and tiring, and exciting, and terrifying.
I took every bit of marketing knowledge I had picked up from GRCC, books, and trial and error for the photo business, and put everything I had into setting up a web presence, social media, and contacting every news and lifestyle outlet I could think of. I'm pretty sure I ran on coffee, delusion, and 'fake-it-till-you-make-it' to make it out alive. I did more painting, building, and creating than I had ever done. Ever.
And then, just like that, it was in running order. On September 6th, 2017, we opened the shop for the first time and prayed to God it wouldn't sink us. We're confident people, but even the bravest would have even a little fear. I prayed the work I did would be enough to launch the shop. I prayed that I wouldn't let Chris down with the marketing work. I just prayed. It was slow going at first. It wasn't this massive boom. But every day, we looked at what was working and what wasn't and stayed on top of it, constantly shifting and changing things and that's what made the pieces fall together. I know it's hard to hear "You just have to keep working at it," but it's the biggest truth of business. If you don't keep working for that next goal, you'll fall behind.
On January 6th, we've officially been open 4 months. We've beaten everyones expectations of where we'd be by now, even our own. We're doing double the amount of work we thought we'd be doing, and we've made some amazing friends along the way. Our support network of family and friends helped us grow and each and every day we say "Look at how far we've come," and then the three of us vacuum and mop the shop. We're grateful. We're humbled. We're strong. And we'll never forget where we came from. This is just our beginning.