San Fernando Valley Business Journal (PDF) - by Chammpaign Williams
Car Crash May Yield Salon Smash
GROOMING: Christopher Styles intends rebuilding project to be a cut above.
Christopher Hird was cutting a customer’s hair when he heard the crash.
The owner of Christopher Styles Barber Spa had a mere second to jump out of the way before a Lexus smashed through the front wall, knocking the reception desk and barber chairs aside as it wedged into the middle of the 1,200-square-foot shop.
“I won’t forget that day. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon and it was kind of a slow day,” Hird, 37, recounted. “It sounded like there was an accident on the street, then the next thing I know I look up and see a Lexus backing right into the front of the shop. There was glass everywhere.”
The accident resulted in $300,000 worth of damage to the Valley Village location and forced the small business to temporarily relocate to Sherman Oaks.
Still, Hird is making the most of the situation. With construction underway, he is giving the shop a facelift – focusing on modern décor, new workstations and launching a marketing campaign to highlight new services. The shop is expected to reopen around the middle of next month.
“It’s kind of strange to say it, but the accident was a blessing in disguise,” Hird said. “We’re capitalizing on the situation and I think it will be bigger and better than it was before.”
The crash occurred Sept. 3 and was ruled an accident by police on the scene. No injuries were reported, though Hird, two staffers and two clients were on the premises. The driver of the silver Lexus, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s, lost control of her vehicle and drove headfirst into a Gourmet Wine and Spirits two stores down, then reversed into Hird’s shop, hitting four cars along the way.
shop, hitting four cars along the way. Police officers tested the driver for alcohol, but found that she was not inebriated. Her information was collected and she was sent home.
While the liquor store was cleaned up and reopened within a matter of hours, insurers estimated the damage to the barbershop would take at least a month to repair.
“Initially it was said that we’d have to shut down completely for three months. When I heard that, I got my Realtor on the phone and said, ‘Let’s look for another place,’” Hird said. “But once the insurers and construction guys got here they estimated maybe three or four weeks to get this done.”
Melissa Gonzalez, owner of New York retail consultancy Lion’esque Group, said communication with customers is key for a small business facing a temporary closure.
“You don’t want a customer to be surprised or to have to do extra work to find out where you are. The shop’s sales person should hit the phones and communicate on their social media channels to let (clients) know that the shop moved but that they’re still valued as customers,” Gonzalez said. “It’s about keeping it easy for customers. If his clients are loyal or really value his service, they’ll probably be more inclined to use his services still.”
Loss of business
Christopher Styles Barber Spa opened in 2012. Hird founded it with the backing of his very active business partner and mother Shirley Carr. The two invested $120,000 of their personal savings to get it off the ground.
The upscale barbershop and spa offers services for both men and women, including haircuts and facial shaves for men, and blow-outs and hair coloring for women. Prices range from $7 for a bang trim to $105 for highlights.
Hird employs a staff of nine – five barbers and stylists, three receptionists and a manager – each ethnically diverse and trained in how to cut and style any type of hair.
Hird said the shop averages 300 to 400 clients a month, 140 of which are new customers. But since construction began in September, the shop has seen a decrease in business by 60 percent – despite mass emails and posts on the company’s website and social media pages informing clients of its temporary change to a room rented at Sola Salon Studios in Sherman Oaks.
The rented space has only two stations, and stylists have been forced to cut their hours and share the chairs to accommodate one another’s schedules.
“You get caught in a bad situation and you just try to make the best out of it,” Hird said. “To be closed for a whole month, that just wouldn’t work. People need haircuts weekly or they’ll go somewhere else. At least we have somewhere we can kind of get those people serviced.”
Fortunately, the shop’s insurer, Hartford Financial Services Group in Hartford, Conn., is covering the company’s loss of business and supplementing staff income.
Damage to the property at 4815 Whitsett Ave. was extensive. The shop’s storefront windows were shattered, and there was structural damage done to the beams and walls. Equipment and chairs for the workstations will have to be replaced, in addition to putting in a new reception desk, flooring and couches for the waiting areas.
waiting areas. “Insurance is paying me a certain amount for business loss, and out of business loss I am paying employees a salary based off what they made previously,” Hird explained. “Insurance is taking care of us, then my insurance will go after (the driver’s) insurance at a later date.”
The process is called subrogation, according to Harris Hur, product development manager at Farmers Insurance Group in Woodland Hills. An insurer that covers the initial costs of a business claim to get operations up and running again may then seek to recover the amount of loss from the insurer of the party at fault – assuming that they’re insured. If the party responsible for the business damage is uninsured, Hur said insurers may attempt to recover the funds directly from said party’s assets.
“If the driver didn’t have insurance or if the driver didn’t have enough insurance and they have assets like houses, then the driver may have to cover the loss from their personal assets,” he said. “If he or she were not financially stable, then a lot of times the insurance company will not try to recover losses. It’s very case specific.”
Once the shop reopens in December, it will once again have eight workstations, a Ushaped reception desk, four flat-screen televisions mounted on walls and shelves of hair products that retail for $10 to $25.
Plus, Hird plans to make a few adjustments. In addition to updating the décor and making the shop brighter and more modern, he’s introducing services he hopes will bring both old clients back and appeal to new customers.
For example, he’s adding an aesthetician to do manicures, pedicures and facials, and is purchasing a pedicure chair specifically for that service. Also, the shop will increase its product offerings with new gels, shampoos and conditioners for sale in addition to the brands it previously carried including John Paul Mitchell and American Crew.
The relaunch marketing campaign will highlight the shop’s new services on Facebook and Instagram as well as use traditional advertising. The crash put the shop on the nightly news and Hird hopes to capitalize on that publicity.
“I’m just hoping and praying our clients understand and they all somewhat come back,” Hird said. “That’s why I want to do a lot of marketing and advertising. This could actually grow bigger than it was before because I’m trying to do some really cool stuff with radio stations, newspapers and news stations that want to come back out for the new grand opening.”
But Lion’esque’s Gonzalez warns that rebranding a business can have unintended consequences.
“You want to make sure you’re not alienating current customers or losing loyal people. If you think about a barbershop, most men are going for convenience and familiarity,” she said.
Those are the reasons Yehuda Haziza said he chose the shop. Haziza has been a regular at Christopher Styles since it opened three years ago and was one of the two customers at the shop during the crash. He has been to the temporary location in Sherman Oaks and believes the shop can recover its business once it reopens.
“I go there every two weeks and the quality I see there is favorable and consistently great,” Haziza said. “I think marketing is always important and critical for any business, and they need to continue that. The quality of the relationship they have with clients will bring many, if not all, of them back.”