Alex DiMeo – A small business hero

I still vividly recall the first day that I met Alex. It was in the summer of 1987. Looking for a Barber Shop where I could consistently get a decent hair cut, I figured a good place to look would be near the hospital. (Hey – doctors need to maintain a professional look, right?) Sure enough, right across the street from the hospital, sat Alex’s Barber Shop.

As I walked in, I found a shop full of patrons waiting for a haircut. Not known for my patience, I turned and walked out, intending to return later. Little did I know that Alex was hot on my heels, and caught me outside the shop. (Mind you, he was in the middle of a hair cut at the time:)

“Hey – where you going?” he asked with a booming voice and pronounced Italian dialect? C’mon in – it won’t be 20 minutes before you get a chair”. I’m not sure if it was the shock of his being so direct or a profound respect for a man so passionate about his work, but I did as Alex asked. I came back in and waited my turn. In less than 20 minutes, Alex had a customer for life.

Alex was another one of those guys that really “gets” customer service. His Barber Shop is the real life “Cheers” where everybody knows your name and they’re really glad you came.  It’s hard to believe that 22 years have gone by.

I fondly recall my young daughter accompanying me to the shop. Alex would make her day by pointing out where the lolly pops were and allowing her to take two! As a right of passage, my son got his first haircut from Alex and delighted in sitting on the child’s carousel style kids chair.  As the years went by we would exchange stories about kids, grand-kids, mortgages, employees, small business, politics, horse racing – just about anything that you would discuss with a friend that you saw every few weeks for 20 + years.

On the morning of  my flight to Las Vegas to attend the PubCon Internet Marketing Conference, I needed to make a quick  trip to see my buddy Alex Dimeo. Despite having a lot less hair than I did 20 years ago, the cruel reality is that it needs to be cut more often (yeah .. counter intuitive, isn’t it). I didn’t see Alex, but it wasn’t uncommon for him to make a coffee run for himself and everyone else in the shop, first thing in the morning.

Since time was tight, I decided not to wait for Alex and took a seat in another Barber’s chair. Not long into my cut, I got a gut check from the guy next to me. “I wasn’t sure that they would keep the shop open after Alex passed.

WTF? Alex was only 59 years old. He was in the last year of his Mortgage. He was looking forward to selling the shop and retiring. How did I know all of this? Alex was more than my barber – he became my friend.

So as it turns out, I was indeed a customer for life. In the 20+ years that I knew Alex he never lost the passion for customer service. If he ever had a bad day, I never knew it. He didn’t just have customers, because everyone that entered that shop was his friend.

I’m going to miss Alex and I feel for his family and friends. He was larger than life and he can not be replaced.  He represented the best in small business and humanity. Rest in peace, my friend.

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