Mr. Cubic Zirconia here, dear reader, with a quick story that won’t take much more than a few minutes to share.
Just something that speaks to our company philosophy of keeping things fun in the workplace.
If you like our emailed stories, you’ll probably like this. If not, well…there are plenty of cat videos on Youtube to entertain you instead! :)
This is a quick story about an immigrant I called “The Happy Barber”-- a sweet older man living his American Dream, and who genuinely loved cutting hair. He was a real “cliptomaniac” (as he called himself).
I’m sharing some thoughts on what he taught me as a man about doing everything with excellence-- and making even the simplest transactions fun as you go along.I went to the happy barber for 5 years when I lived in the Tampa Bay, Florida area.
Even when I moved around, living in Davis Island, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Clearwater Beach and Tarpon Springs-- once I met “The Happy Barber”, I drove over an hour to get my regular haircut by this old Irish guy who always made me laugh
(I remember a joke he told the first time I was in his shop-- Happy Barber: “Welcome to the house of handsome, little man. How old are you, kid?” Kid: “Eight.” Happy Barber: “So did you come in for a haircut or a shave, or both?”).
The guy’s barber shop was in a pretty run-down strip mall, part of a mostly residential area. I think he told me he’d been there 25 years when I was coming in every 2 weeks before moving out of the area.
And that was a decade ago. The last time I spoke to his granddaughter-- with whom I became friends-- he was still there in 2020 doing biz in the same location, proudly wearing a T-shirt that read “Gray lives matter: We’ll color your hair or dye trying.”
Biggest difference from then to now was that the $8 haircut ($7 for seniors) I was happy to pay way back then was now $12 and $10 for seniors.
Walkins were still welcome, but the email list I talked him into starting had reached 5,000 names according to the granddaughter.
The experience of getting a happy barber haircut, combined with the funny stuff he sent out to customer inboxes-- and the care he showed his regulars-- resulted in plenty of appointments getting booked on a weekly basis, too.
The appointments were handled by his ‘technical advisor’ (the joking title he gave his granddaughter, who set up the internet and apps needed to take his little barber shop into the 21st century).
Not to mention the monthly “barberque” customer appreciation cookout he threw that every month drew over a hundred hair-cutting regulars hungry for free burgers, hot dogs and bratwurst.
This gent turned a simple shop into a real business with a real presence in his local community and was an inspiration to me, frankly.
There were just four barber chairs-- all facing towards a mirrored wall.
The chairs were always filled with customers.
It was the kinda place that when you walk in, they know ‘you've been hair before’!
From conversations with other customers, I know that when it came to convenience, many other regulars than just me had plenty o’ places closer to home or work where they could go to get their hair cut.Yet the barber chairs were always full.
And more of us sat and waited our turn from shop open to close.
While he had a few other contractors working there and tending the other chairs… the “Happy Barber” haircut was a masterpiece, frankly-- and I wasn’t the only customer who’d regularly wait to get my hair cut by the owner.
It was an experience.
First, he’d smack my neck with one of those horse tail brushes.
A cloud of baby-smelling powder filled the air.
Then he wrapped some sort of paper doily thing around my neck.
And draped a cape over my lap and chest to keep off the falling hair.
By then he’d be telling his first joke.
The guy had hundreds of hair-related jokes, it seemed.
But I heard each of these a few times…
- “Why are barbers never late for work? They know all of the short cuts!”
- “Somebody cut me loose!”
- “How does a lumberjack trim his beard? With a chinsaw.”
- “Much better than a bad hair day…”
There were a lot of memorized jokes for sure. But he was pretty amazing at riffing off of everything he’s doing and what’s going on in the shop, too, to make another joke. Asked to prepare a man’s hair for dreadlocks, The Happy Barber didn’t miss a beat: “Sure thing, home skillet. I’m snip doggy dogg today!”
Once the audience was paying full attention, he’d pull out his electric shears and go to work on my neck.
He used all kinds of tools to cut my hair.
He's snapping different cutting tools onto the shears for different parts of my head.
There was a tool for the front of my hair, another one for the top of my head, a different cutter for the sides and even one for the hair that I’m embarrassed to say had started sprouting in my ears.
“The Happy Barber” used scissors and a comb too, of course. He’d pop his comb against his scissors every time he needed to clear hair off the scissor blade. Like a Mr. scissor hands, he was bending, squinting, looking for any hair out of place so he could snip that bad boy back to the stone age.
And the old gent even rubbed on a hot menthol lather and shaved me with a straight razor-- an “old world” experience he said he did just the way his grandfather had done back in Ireland “when I was a wee lad”.
But the reason I kept coming back wasn’t just that he knew how to use the tools of his trade. It was how he’d make just as much effort to make all the guys in the shop laugh, too.
“I bought a wig for a dollar…” he’d say.
And wait for someone to ask what that was all about.
He’d stare into the mirror so everyone in the waiting area could get a good look at his face as he chuckled and finished the joke: “It was a small price toupee.”
And all the while he was snipping each stray hair with lightning-fast snip snips.
I’ve been to high-end salons and had my hair cut in two dozen cities. But the years I visited “The Happy Barber” included the only incredible haircut experiences I’ve ever had. This gent made getting a simple haircut a damn event.Not one hair out of place.
He even cut the stray hairs on my eyebrows.
“Lookin’ sharp, bucko” he’d always say when he was finished.
“Don’t tell me if you like it or not. Trust me, it’ll grow on you!”
All that for only $8 bucks!
And I’ve never forgotten that.
If you've wondered where the funny business instinct comes from in our jewelry business...the happy barber is a big part of that.
Thanks for making us “the happy barber” of the jewelry business.
Long live the belly laughs!
Now go buy something, will ya?
Shears to you,
Mr. Cubic Zirconia