The Secret to Being in Business for 60 Years: Patience, openness and warmth (Sanders Barbershop in Broken Arrow, OK)

A few weeks ago my daughter and I went on a photography walk in downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where we live. We saw many interesting sites, many familiar, but some new finds as well.

Just as we were heading back to our car, I spotted Commercial Street. I couldn’t recall ever walking down Commercial Street. My daughter, 14 and easily aggravated when she has to be away from her iPhone for more than a few minutes, said, “No, let’s go to the car.” I had encouraged her to keep her phone tucked away so we could focus on conversation and street art.

So, we turned onto Commercial Street and started walking, the setting sun at our backs and deep shadows marking our path. The shadows seemed to be pointing to a barbershop pole. My eyes lit up and I pulled my camera to my left eye and focused on the pole. My daughter sighed. She probably rolled her eyes too, but I chose to not look close enough to see.

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Sanders Barbershop, Broken Arrow, OK

You just don’t see barbershop poles much these days. I began taking photos of the pole and through the windows into the shop. The Sorry, we’re closed sign was up. But to my surprise, a man with a broom filled the frame. He startled me and I was suddenly embarrassed to be snooping through his shop with my camera. I saw cut hair in a pile near the back. Ah, they’re closed, but he is still here cleaning up. I was sure the man was going to come out and tell me to scramble away from his shop.

Barber Shop

Original sinks and cabinetry in Sanders Barbershop 

I took my hands off of my camera and let the camera hang from its strap around my neck, as if that gesture would make my curious lens invisible. My daughter had a look that said I told you we should have just gone to the car.

He opened the door, smiled and said, “Why don’t you come in? You’ll get much better pictures from inside.” I nearly leaped off of the sidewalk! My daughter looked at me and tried desperately to speak to me with her eyes. She was probably saying, “Really mom!” But in I walked.

Barber Shop-2

Mr. Sanders is his name and he owns the shop. He told me his family has run his barbershop in downtown Broken Arrow for more than 60 years. Mr. Sanders took the time to give me a tour of the vintage shop. We talked about the furniture, fixtures, antique cash register and his years of service with the US Navy. As we talked, my camera shutter fluttered.

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Each of the barber chairs looked like this. My jaw dropped as I ran my hands across the soft leather and took in the sturdy antiques.

My daughter and I stayed a good little while and then I realized Mr. Sanders must have someplace to be this beautiful Saturday afternoon. I knew my daughter was past bored. I thanked Mr. Sanders and we said goodbye.

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Mr. Sanders told me this cash register is 100 years old.

When I walked into Sanders Barbershop, I felt like I was being welcomed by an old friend. He smiled as we talked and I felt good, excited and at ease. He was open with me. My many questions, my large lens and my moving about his place of business didn’t make him impatient. He seemed glad I was there. I imagine Mr. Sanders treats his customers with the same warmth, openness and patience. Perhaps this is his secret to being in business for more than 60 years.

Myra Golden is a customer experience keynote speaker and trainer who travels North America looking for great stories to share, and new ways to help her clients deliver the best possible customer experience.

Myra has worked for 14 years delivering riveting keynotes and behavior-changing customer service workshops. Her clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Ally, Lincoln Financial, Montage Furniture Services and Proctor & Gamble among others.

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