Conclude the Crisis - Confront the Challenge
By now, you're likely well aware that Division Road launched the Contribute Through Craft Program in March at the early onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to provide an effective avenue for our client's purchases to directly benefit others facing the significant consequences of this crisis. From the beginning, we've used our simple 10% of Gross Profits (Sales – Cost of Goods) metric to action direct donation plans, which by no means is a sustainable level of charitable practice for our niche. Fortunately, our patrons have rallied behind us in this historic calamity, supporting us and enabling some grassroots good via the goods we sell. This direct strategy was instituted to ensure every dollar donated goes to the street level of our economy; and we thought you should know our CTC Program has directly donated over $15,000 to small businesses and their employees.
Moving on to the rundown of our most recent action plan, Cut The Crisis, we start with a short story of Assembly Barber Shop and its founder, Bryan Essick, who is a local mainstay and legend in the Seattle barber community. Just after the New Year, Bryan decided to re-launch his grandfather's establishment after a generational hiatus. After investing much time, money, and risk into this endeavor, all of his plans were put in peril as a result of the State-Mandated lockdown, ready to cut and fade yet unable to open and operate. As mutual friends and clients of each other's ventures, we know you’ll find ABS like-minded to Division Road in its approach to provide authentic services in an exceptional environment with an elevated approach. Frankly, we think Assembly will be the best barber shop in town, and it serves as a small business archetype that should be able to thrive in our city.
The lockdown measures have not only restricted businesses from operating, but have paralyzed society from functioning. As phases of a re-opening plan are now allowing many industries to resume some level of service, there are few customers who are patronizing those establishments. So, in order to assist with getting some momentum and immediately needed revenue resultant from a much-delayed launch of Assembly Barber Shop, through our CTC Program we commissioned them to provide 100 Free Hair Cuts to those who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis and shutdowns. Our attitude through this crisis has been to assist other small businesses that normally provide grand goods and services to our community but have not been able to maintain operations in a notable way. We’ve done this by developing action plans that engage those businesses so as to help others in need in order to create a positive ripple effect, and to inspire others to look at the small ways they can do something for others each day, which in turn will help themselves.
Obviously, our goal during and beyond these tough times is to keep our own business, employees, neighborhood, vendors, and community viable for the future. Our clients have allowed us to maintain our operation and position, and we are extremely grateful for their support through these uncertain and bizarre days, months, and what will certainly be the year. We will continue our efforts as the crisis evolves and will be transitioning our CTC Program into other efforts and contributions that focus on educational and civil issues that are now impacting our society. Per the intention and title, the Cut The Crisis plan will be our final iteration of the direct donation aspect of the CTC endeavor, as we move into our Literature for Liberty program in the interim in order to distribute accurate and nowadays somewhat alternative texts that are directly related to current events. In our view, there is a dire need for proper context and education around issues of race, our country’s history, and the economic structure of our nation as many look for resources in an age of dis-information.
As we conclude the Contribute Through Craft program, we would like to note that the hallmark Cut The Crisis Plan is also aimed at instilling a level of normalcy to our world in a safe manner. Now that some business restrictions are lifting and we begin to return to some of our normal living routines, we think it’s crucial to be smart, stalwart, and strong when handling and considering the matters at hand. From the business side, when the maximum amount of lifeblood, finances, and energy one has invested is deemed “non-essential,” it’s detrimental, defeating, and disparate at every level beyond the obvious and crucial livelihood of an individual or team. The impacts of the shutdowns have been innumerable and while there have been “plans” to offset these challenges for the individual and some “small” businesses, they have largely been either ineffectual or have drawn unintended consequences. Further, the cracks that people and many businesses have fallen through are quite wide and can be more accurately described as gulfs, not just gaps. This story and the crisis itself are really about people, so with that we’ll let them tell the tale:
Assembly Barber Shop
What was the inspiration of opening your own shop?
I’ve wanted to open my own barbershop for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked in quite a few different shops around the Seattle area over the years, and I am grateful to have finally had the opportunity to make something really special. I wanted to create something that was genuine and had the old barbershop feel that has been diluted, or lost, in many current barbershops. I wanted to work somewhere that I was proud to call my own.
What has it been like planning a business with the uncertainty from the mandated stay at home order?
Well...To say at the least, it has been tough. On the bright side, I was able to take a break from the daily grind of cutting hair, and focus all of my love and energy into making a shop that is truly one-of-a-kind.
We’re very invested in seeing likeminded businesses thrive in Seattle; how does our CTC program help you out?
Division Road’s CTC program was huge in helping us get back to work, while giving some of Seattle’s economically hardest hit people a confidence boost of a cut and the comfort that things may change for them and people care. COVID-19 has been a very real and huge wrench thrown into our daily lives, cutting hair, and being a barbershop. We have to take significantly less people than we previously were able to serve, in order to ensure proper sanitization and spacing. Getting new clients in the door helps us tremendously by creating new relationships with people in the community. So, it’s big a big deal for us.
What were the sentiments of those to whom you were providing these Free Cuts?
Everyone we saw for a free CTC haircut was very grateful. The majority of individuals whose hair we normally cut work in the service industry, and have for years. Their fear of not knowing when, or if, they will be able to return to work is very daunting. I would have to say there is a real sense of hopelessness when it comes to getting their jobs back, and helplessness (which I know I have felt during the COVID-19 crisis as well). I think personal contact and the feeling of normalcy one experiences when getting a cut, and that connection it brings to peoples’ lives, is huge. I have had many people tell me this past month that I am the first person they have seen, besides the grocery store workers; hearing that tells me that the service we provide as barbers is so much more than a haircut for many individuals.
We will share a fair amount of clientele, is there anything you’d like to tell the Division Road customers who purchased purposefully with the Contribute Through Craft Program in mind, and those that specifically came out to get cut after hearing about the shop?
I would have to say that the money allocated to the CTC program helped us out in an immeasurable way. Being out of work for three months was detrimental, and Division Road’s donated haircuts got clients back in our chairs as quickly as possible. Also, to those who came out and supported us through booking an appointment: Thank you, thank you! A barbershop is nothing without its clients, Division Road is the best when it comes to luxury heritage menswear. We strive to provide the same attributes in our barbershop—traditional quality craftsmanship—and because of this, we are honored to serve any of Division Road’s clients.
On the launch day last month, we were able to see and speak to some of those beneficiaries of the Crisis Cuts. It was a pleasure hearing about their situations and that this was helping them in even a small way. Not that we need a reminder about the impact of the crisis, but as a business that has been able to maintain some level of service (through much effort), it also made us grateful once again for our business model and clientele that has supported us through this very uncertain and difficult time.
Jack heard about the Cut The Crisis Plan from Assembly’s Instagram posts, announcing that they were providing free haircuts to those who lost their job. Unfamiliar with heritage clothing, he had not heard of Division Road and assumed we were a non-profit organization instead of a clothing store. When the Washington state Stay-At-Home measure was mandated, Jack’s company furloughed him for roughly two months, and then terminated his employment. He has yet to receive any of his benefits, has not worked since March, and here is his story.
“I was working for a Marine HVAC company. I’ve had bad asthma since I was a little kid and when corona came, my doctor suggested I stay home and isolate as much as possible as he felt I was part of the vulnerable population. I recently got cleared to go back to work, but my industry has been hit hard and projects have slowed to the point where they cannot afford to bring me back on.
I’ve been filing (for unemployment) every week...trying to at least. Initially, I couldn’t get a hold of anybody with how busy they’ve been. There are so many people unemployed right now in the State of Washington the system is overwhelmed...dealing with a lot of fraudulent claims, amongst which mine was impacted so I have to go through that fraud department. I call that number then it’s busy or you get redirected back to the main line going in circles seemingly forever.
I’ve actually found an unemployment support group online for Washingtonians with almost 30,000 members. The members gave me a number and recently I called the Governor’s office who said they would get someone on my case...nothing yet there either. Hopefully I’ll hear back soon and receive back pay and unemployment benefits within the next two weeks, I need it.
A fresh cut makes me feel a lot better, a straight razor shave...my goodness it’s good. It’s not easy for me to receive things for free and it feels good knowing you’re taking care of these barbers, this shop, and other people in my situation.”
Rodolfo is a long-time client of Bryan’s and a veteran in the service industry. He prides himself as a true professional specializing in the front-of-house experience within high-end and fine-dining restaurants. Rodolfo was disappointed in the lack of leadership and any relative loyalty that his company demonstrated at the early onset of COVID-19. With no direction at the beginning of WA State’s Stay-At-Home mandate, and none since, he is waiting and hoping for better days when he can return to work, apply his skills, and make a living again. Rodolfo has a welcoming personality and professional demeanor, and here is what he had to say.
“I have been seeing Bryan for over four years now. I work and live in Bellevue and coming to see him is well worth the commute. I have been with the same company for over 20 years. The situation is unfortunate because my company refused to acknowledge COVID was even a thing. They did not give employees a chance to get ready, prepare our resumes, or even notify us that they would be shutting the doors.
We unexpectedly and suddenly closed the same day the Governor issued the shutdowns. No one in corporate or HR knew what to do as there was no transparency or communication between employees and ownership, it was terrible. All we were told was, “Stay home; we don’t know what to do, keep watching the news.”
A new haircut really gives me hope, makes me feel as if there are better people to go work for and gives me the confidence to go talk to them. With my experience working such a wide range of positions, I look forward to the new chapter that this could bring. Thank you for the haircut, it’s very much appreciated.”
John is a bartender who takes his craft seriously and prides himself on his customer service and ability to concoct a rare cocktail to perfection. Like many others in his industry he has been out of work since March. Pre-COVID, John would rely on Nate the Barber to keep his style pristine and consistent. He learned about our CTC program from Nate’s Instagram posts and Assembly Barbershop’s announcements. John has a positive outlook and is waiting patiently for news and updates from his work. In the meantime, John was a perfect candidate for the CTC Plan, being a perfectionist at his craft and getting ready to jump at the opportunity to get back at it.
“I’m a bartender at a restaurant inside of a hotel on the waterfront and have been out of work since the middle of March. My company is waiting for the next phase of re-opening to begin letting employees back on site and re-launch the restaurant/bar. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Since we’re in a hotel, my managers have to wait for it to open again and secure enough reservations before the restaurant is allowed to open and operate, so there are a lot of moving parts.
I was looking up my Barber Nate on Instagram to see if and when he’s back to cutting hair again and was pleasantly surprised to see the post and launch on Assembly Barbershop’s Instagram page about your partnership on the CTC Program. I can’t wait to get back to work and moving forward with my next steps. Thank you so much for making this happen for me, it’s great to see your customers’ purchases go towards something meaningful for the community, I really appreciate it.”
At the end of the day, these are just a few stories of the millions that have lost their jobs with the hope of returning to work in order to regain that sense of purpose, make a living, and to connect with humanity once again. Each situation in one regard is different, but there is a lot of commonality. We need to recognize we’re all in the same boat, and the truth is the boat is sinking whether we personally see the rising tide or not. While some of us and our situations have not been gravely affected, many have been. When we drive through our towns, neighborhoods, and cities, the depressing sense that something is not right, and that desperation we feel when we look upon those vacant and ghostly places that used to be brimming with activity not so long ago needs to be fought, wisely. While we don’t know what the new normal looks like, it’s important that we embrace these challenges creatively and not fearfully.
The human brain works very hard to normalize its environment, and when we start getting used to not seeing humans, activity, and vitality, we will begin to disconnect the cause from the effect. The cause was the virus followed by scattered, inconsistent, and some would say short sighted protective measures that in the end have the possibility when poorly executed to cause more harm than good. We think it’s crucial to recognize that things are not right, and we should not standardize that situation. While many are protected from the costs of the crisis and shutdowns whether it be health-based, economic, employment, social, or civil, there are many who are not secure and have no safety net from their employers, governments, and the system at large. So, as our Contribute Through Craft program transitions into Literature for Liberty along with other good-doing efforts that we will continue to engage, we think it’s time that we responsibly, wisely, and safely get back to living and supporting the businesses that deserve it. Let’s Cut the Crisis.