I'll never get why some new, small startups in Ferndale think they can survive on Ghost Town hours. Have you ever looked into how many restaurants, bake shops, coffee houses and boutiques roll up their section of sidewalk before you've even had a chance to run home from work, eat dinner and get your shopping shoes on?
It's a lot.
I gave a cautionary -- if not boorish -- lecture to the good people at Strawberry Moon Bakery & Pizzaria, but it was apparently too late by the time they'd started staying open past 5 p.m. (when people actually ... you know ... buy pizzas.) I don't know whether it was their hours that did them in or not. But it felt like it to me.
There's a courting period when new customers are introduced to you for the first time as a new business. You only get one or two chances with that potential customer. The first time they notice you they decide on the spot whether you even have anything they'd ever want. The second time is when they actually take time out of their schedule to go to your business with money in their wallet. If you're closed when they get there, you have to hope they're the kind of person who gives you the third chance. That's the one who reads the hours on the door, and if your hours aren't utterly useless to them they may come back once more. Tick them off the third time, and you lose them and frankly you deserve to fail. Because you're not even willing to adapt to life as your best customer sees it. They are the people who are going to give you your brand. And they are also the people who are going to glance at their watches and walk away insuring you shutter your windows and close up shop before you can even make four payments on the loan you took out to start your business.
It's just bad business to close at 6 p.m. in a town when the parade of people doesn't even show up until 7 p.m or later! I honestly think some new business owners developed their sense of what good hours would be for them while they were unemployed, sitting in Java Hutt (open to 11 p.m daily, midnight weekends,) in the middle of the day wondering what they'll do next. They make a few friends at 2 in the afternoon and develop this odd belief that 2 in the afternoon is when there are people downtown. I have news for you. Those people are unemployed too. The rest of us, the ones with the debit cards, are at work. And we want terribly for you to be open when we get there.
Another business I gave my What-Are-You-Thinking preach to was Pinwheel Bakery. I popped in, half winded from rushing from the car to the sandwich cooler before they could lock the door on me.
"No more Turkey Havarti" I asked. Really, one of the best sandwiches I've ever tasted. The roll is flash toasted to a delicate crunch and the turkey is juicy. I think they must put the lettuce on after they toast it because I've never had a piece of flat, wilted lettuce pop out of a Pinwheel sandwich ever.
"Oh, no we stop making those an hour before closing time!"
It was 5:30 in the afternoon! I'm not even supposed to be home from work yet I snuck out early just to get one of these damned sandwiches. She was practically wagging her finger at me ... for wanting to buy one.
You don't need to imagine too much to get a sense of what that does to a potential customer when they haven't yet cultivated a bond of dedication and brand loyalty. Sure the sandwiches are awesome. Too bad you don't make them when I need them!
Recently, after getting a cut at Reid, I zipped over to Rust Belt thinking I would FINALLY get my first bag of Henrietta Haus fresh roasted coffee. That logo face had been smiling at me for weeks now; it was time for me to notice them for the second time. But they were nowhere to be seen. Saturday in the middle of the day, the suns out. It's a gorgeous October afternoon and they're not interested in the customer base they've been courting for a month? Oh well. Off to Chazzano.
"Open weekdays 'til 6; Friday 'til 4; CLOSED SATURDAY!!!"
Really? Friday 'til 4 p.m.? What, are you keeping your Fridays open for pub-crawling?
Actually, those are the hours on the website. If you actually go there, the sign on the door now says: "Saturdays Evenings Seasonal"
I mean what in gods' name does that even mean?! When is coffee out of season?!?! This isn't brain surgery but just incase you never heard this before let me be the first to break it to you. In a new business you lose your ass in the first year, guaranteed!
The businesses that make it, the ones that stick around long enough to become the AJ's Music Cafes and the Howe's Bayous and the Como's of our city are the ones who bust it trying to convince people you're going to be there, be consistent, be quality, and be available. Take a nice vacation in year No. 3 when you're sure you've locked us in. But if you have these cute little boutique hours in your first five months it says "I can take your business or leave it."
And incase you didn't catch my comment up top...you deserve to fail.
Ferndale needs success stories. People who fight, who work, who struggle to succeed and become a place we can't live without. I guess there's room for hobbyists who don't really care whether they sell a shoe or not. But just know from me personally, from this money splurging gay man with a shopping addiction ... I ain't interested in passively watching you work through your latest harebrained business idea from inside my car window as I pass by because the doors are locked. You're taking up valuable real estate that could be filled with entrepreneurs and business people who are interested working for it. Wise up. And open up. Before the parade passes you by completely.