Walk into Junior’s in Jupiter, Florida and you might be surprised at what you find. The walls are painted with graffiti. The furniture is constructed from industrial diamond plate steel, and red and black leather. And the proprietor is wearing a Harley-Davidson mechanic’s shirt, with short sleeves of course, to show off his fully tattooed arms. The other guys there are dressed in a similar fashion—jeans and baggy shorts, black tee shirts, tattoos, baseball caps, and chains. And most of them—Ruben, Jairo, Trix, Chi, and Johnny—are clutching just-sharpened straight razors or have them ready at hand at their workspaces.
But the people waiting to be served are not typical “hot rod shop” customers. Instead, they’re young boys and businessmen and suburban mothers and fathers.
That’s because Junior’s is not a garage or a gang hangout.
It’s a hair salon. No, really.
Further down the Florida coast on the tip of Miami Beach, Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant sells the same thing as Junior’s. Not haircuts with a garage vibe but the feeling that you’re in a special place, part of a special club, in the know.
On a Saturday night during tourist season, patrons line up in front of Ed and Anthony’s maître d’ stand to put their names on Joe’s seating list even though they know the wait for a table might be over three hours. And since Joe’s doesn’t take reservations, you could argue that the diners are not there in spite of the wait but because of it. After all, where else can you see and be seen in the ground zero of South Beach?
Joe’s and Junior’s are thriving businesses created for today’s tribal economy where what you do is not as important as how you do it or who you are.
If you just want your hair cut, you can go anywhere from an $8 discount cuttery to a $150 exclusive salon. But if you want something different, if you want to feel cool, if you want an experience, then you have to go to Junior’s.
But don’t take my word for it; read what they say on their website: “Junior’s Barber Shop, where Rock-N-Roll sets the tone for this garage inspired tattoo vibin’ atmosphere. Junior’s is a FULL SERVICE Barber Shop offering everything from children’s to men’s cuts, to hot towel shaves and we even do custom designs for the edgier folk.”
Notice that Junior doesn’t say anything about how well they cut hair or how inexpensive they are. That’s because those things don’t matter. What Junior’s is selling is not a haircut, it’s an experience.
I think Joe’s grilled fish is the best in Miami. And their fried chicken is the best in the world. But their website doesn’t brag about their food. Like the haircuts at Junior’s, food at Joe’s is currency. It’s what they trade for money but it’s not what their customers are buying. Want proof? Go to the website and you’ll find the recipes for their most acclaimed dishes, including their Caesar salad dressing, their ginger salmon, and Joe’s world-famous key lime pie published right there for all the world—and all their competitors—to copy. If all you want is the food, you can make it yourself.
What you can’t make yourself is Joe’s atmosphere, their feeling, their vibe. Or as they say on the web, “It has always been the love of food, family, and friends that has brought in customers and kept them coming.”
That, and the crowds that tell you you’re somewhere special.
What does this have to do with you? The takeaway here is that your business needs to make people feel special, too. More importantly, it’s a reminder that people are not buying what you sell; they’re buying who you are. And if you can express your authentic self through your business, as Junior’s and Joe’s have done, you’ll find scores of customers who are hungry for what you’re selling.