A Little Off the Top – A Tribute to My Barber

One of the keys to success in any sales-type of business is earning “Top of Mind Awareness.” When people are asked about a company, product or service provider, who is it that comes to mind? Who is the answer that comes to mind without having to Google, search online or scroll through the contact list on your phone to come up with the right name?

For most people, their doctor, dentist or attorney has earned “top of mind” awareness. If I ask some people “who is your accountant/financial advisor/pediatrician?” they have an immediate answer. If you’re lucky as a Realtor, lender or title representative, you have earned that coveted real estate space in your friend’s minds so when someone they know mentions real estate, they immediately think of you.

 If you asked me who “my barber” was, I wouldn’t even hesitate. I would smile and say “Howard Salzgaber.”

Sadly, I will need to start thinking of a new answer because “my barber” Howard died this weekend. I’ve been getting my haircuts at Howard’s Barber Shop since the early 1970’s. Howard Warner and Howard Salzgaber were the names behind the sign on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington for years. Mom would often drop my brothers and me off for a haircut and we would run in and ask Howard “How long?” He would count up the men waiting in the chairs around the room and do some quick math in his head, shout out an answer and we’d relay the estimate to Mom.

I remember sitting in the chairs and listening to the old men talk about their jobs and their kids and their golf games. As little kids, we’d walk over to the magazine rack and find the latest Archie & Jughead or Spiderman comic books. Later we would grab a Sports Illustrated or Boys Life as we tried to sneak a peek at the Playboys and other adult magazines on the top shelf.

When our haircuts were finished, we’d get to select a lollipop or stick of gum and then would ask to borrow the phone to call home and say “come pick us up.” When Mom would pick us up, she’d ask if we had “talkative Howard” (Warner) or “quiet Howard” (Salzgaber). It didn’t matter to us because they both were good at what they did and each of them had stories to tell and were great at asking questions.

Howard Warner left the business to become the Executive Director of the Ohio State Barber Board and eventually Howard’s moved to Grandview. Many of Howard’s regulars, including me, followed Salzgaber to his new location. Much like a good bartender and a good mechanic, once you find someone you can trust with scissors and a razor blade, there’s no reason to change.

As I got older, I realized that Howard wasn’t quiet at all. He wasn’t as talkative as Warner but he sure could spin a yarn. He never forgot a face and rarely forgot a name. His clients reached across every generation and many of his patrons were a third or fourth generation. His genuine care about what was going on in the lives of his customers is a rare trait to find in many service providers these days.

When my father passed away suddenly, Howard delivered pizzas to our house so family and close friends who came by to mourn would have something to eat. My mom will never forget that generosity. In fact, Howard would always ask about my Mom and if she was in town or out at her home in Montana.

Just like Realtors, not all barbers are the same. Anyone with scissors, a razor and a barber pole outside the front door might be able to cut hair but that doesn’t make ’em a barber. I’m not sure what will happen to Howard’s now, but I know when someone asks me who my barber is, it’s going to take a while to come up with a name. I guess you could say Howard’s passing has taken a “little off the top” of my mind.

God Speed, Howard. You’ll be missed.



Photo Credit: Matthew Morris via Flickr

Photo Credit: Dave O via Flicker

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