steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business

giving thanks



this day, thanksgiving day, is our last day away from the store until christmas. the small price we pay for living in a world of our own creation. not bad considering.

this has been an exceptional year for us. the first year in quite a few that i am truly thankful for everyone who works in the house. this year we pulled together as a team and worked for the common good. everyone keenly aware that for our business to thrive, for the good of one another, we work for the common good.

i give everything i have to this business because i love my daily work. it is not nor has ever been about legacy, press or notoriety. money is a wonderful energy to receive and spend, but it offers no real joy. only opportunity. for me, at the end of each day, there are only the people who inhabit my life and the daily work itself. i live to work. duross & langel has given me the life i dreamed about as a child.

as you can see from this year’s pictures, the addition of our shop dog angus (#angustheshopdog) has been a blessing for us all. even on the most frustrating or stress filled days, a little love from this guy and everything feels a bit better. if you come by the store or salon, you’ll become acquainted with angus very soon.

and so on this day, this national day of thanksgiving, i share my daily dose of gratitude for all that i have and all i have to share. for the people who love me and for the people who love what i do. for the opportunity to work at what brings me joy, and for that work to sustain and support so many, not the least of which is me.

i wish you joy in the coming days and weeks, a hope for a brighter future, and for the demise of the hateful things that continue to grow in our culture. i believe that love and hope and sharing life’s opportunities will change the world for the better. that it begins with the power of intention and is fueled by kindness and gratitude. #makeamericakindagain is our motto for the next year. we hope you will interface with our social media and connect with this ideal.

warmest regards for the season.

steve duross

where fools rush in

for more than a dozen years, sarah and i have worked the store and built the business. along the way we've shared our thoughts and ideas with many people. we've listened, explored, debated, attempted, failed, dusted-ourselves-off, got up off the mat and continued on. we have learned a great deal about many things from wholesale distribution to what it's like to open new stores, businesses and add-on ventures. we have gained perspective and hopefully a bit of wisdom. the business choices we now make, based upon our shared experiences, are not always considered popular. but they are prudent with respect to the things we've experienced..

we consider ourselves fortunate with the requests we receive for collaboration. to be thought of for a partnership is an amazing thing. each opportunity is weighed with the same amount of interest. never a thought about the size. our desire to participate in any project is always measured by the devotion reserved exclusively for our stores (online and 13th street,) and to our customers. that may sound grandiose but nothing happens (or for that matter sustains this long) without a great deal of intention. scatter the intention in pursuit of cash and the whole thing goes to hell.

a note about money: sarah and i agree to see money as an energy rather than a tangible thing. money allows us to continue to come to work every day. to work for ourselves. to be creative. the more we live into our daily lives, connect and grow our vision while living into our dreams, the more money seems to present itself. in turn, we then use that energy to make our lives a bit sweeter, take a weekend trip or rent a bigger flat. we need money to grow the business into what we envision it to be. the energy we spend allows us to experience a life that is fuller. money creates opportunity, allows us to be philanthropic, look after the people we love and try new things. in and of itself, money doesn't exist.

find this a difficult concept to swallow? take a peek inside fort knox. our whole money system is based on the idea that it is backed by gold that no longer belong to us. our money is now backed by a concept. if we fail (the collapse of our monetary system) everyone fails. therefore no one fails and the magical world of nothing is what we call money. so, perhaps money as an energy is closer to the truth than it used to be.

if we see opportunity as an energy rather than simple dollars, it's easier to determine which choices are going to be in our best interest. which is why we sometimes experience the ire of those who we have refused. not because it doesn't make sense on paper, but because it doesn't make sense in relation to our lifestyle. the parable of the loaves and fishes is a wonderful story but it doesn't equate to feeding the brand selections on the shelves. when someone is unhappy that we don't make a particular scent in a particular product, they don't often care why so much as communicating their disappointment for not fulfilling a desire. a very human condition most of us share, and we do not take it personally. on a larger scale, we've experienced this with other businesses who wish to carry some iteration of our product. "we are big and this is an amazing opportunity for you" is the gist of most opening pitches. we get it. people have made a choice to reach out to our brand and we are most appreciative. however, that doesn't mean it's going to be a good fit. the store and how we show up in the world is the soul of our operation. i think this is why we treasure our current partnerships the way we do. it has been an amazing experience to work with people who do what they do so brilliantly. these partnerships dovetail nicely with our vision, and we couldn't be happier with the outcome.

thirteen years ago when we moved to 13th street, we were promised a neighborhood rich in mixed use space and diversity. there were quite a few retail shops that offered shoppers a variety of reason to visit our neighborhood. today retail in the hood is about 1/10 of what it was ten years ago. the most amazing restaurants surround us now, and we have learned to create as much of our own draw as possible. however, the current mayor does nothing to improve street life in the business district. to add insult to injury, WAWA, the mecca for all center city people with no where to go who wish to hang out on the street will be opening soon on 13th and chestnut. should be an interesting summer. the nature of 13th will continue to change. as buildings are going up and others being restored, there is much hope for our future as a neighborhood. ultimately, this should create opportunity for everyone. so next election, before you choose to pull a lever for some person because they think weed is cool, ask yourself what they've done to make your life better (other than weed). the people we choose to lead us in the next ten years will change the face of philadelphia for generations. the business life of the city effects us all. know who you're voting for. then vote.

recently we had a few people in the salon move on. no spin. this turned out to be the best thing for everyone involved. we are happy that life in our salon has settled into a new normal. it is by no means perfect, but i personally love the current energy. some former clients however have chosen to treat this transition as an opportunity to stir the pot. i get it. they love their stylist. i happily enjoyed the same closeness with my clients when i was a stylist. weirdly, i've gotten some calls and emails telling me what their stylist said about me, or the salon or the clients position on the whole matter (which is really none of my business). i would rather not know about something that we have all put behind us. maybe some people just don't like me which is perfectly normal. whatever. it's all good actually. if you know your stylist no longer works here and you called just to make some point, please don't.

as with all things D+L related, sarah treads more lightly than me. i stomp. entrepreneurship isn't a platitude poster on the wall. it is a gritty and exhausting and crazy business, and i wouldn't want it any other way. that includes the guano.

the end is near

we all think or believe we know where we are going. what we have planned. how things should work. but the longer i am alive, the less certain i am of what i know, and more certain of the vast unknown.

our jobs. our relationships. our choices. most of us like to build out an ideal of what we have constructed, as if somehow happiness can be found in the mundane bits of our daily lives. having a love relationship, commitment, marriage. simply lock it in and get a move on, right? buy a house, buy a bigger one. have nice things, be social, be special. have children and insert yourself into every aspect of their lives. be busy doing soccer and dance and carpools and whatever. make your neighbors your friends, make your kid's friends parents your friends. stay busy enough that it can all be enough when you realize how utterly boring it can be. or like me, be successful at your job. build a business. build two. build your reputation, position, authority.... but at any time, pull at one of these threads, and the whole thing begins to unravel.

loneliness is always lurking just outside the line of sight. our collective sanity is bound together by a certain set of chosen beliefs, most of which are either in harmony or conflict. they rarely have anything to do with facts so much as the deafening noise fed through streams of media. who we are, or think we are, can collapse in an instant.

clarity comes to me in waves. it begins slowly but as it builds over time, i can see more clearly if i really choose, or it can happen like a zen slap. there was just such a moment of clarity at the end of my marriage when i came to realize that love was no longer enough. that although it was love (and lust) that drew us together, the gulf between the disparate desires we each held for our futures was, ultimately, the death of the relationship. though we attempted a friendship after, the more we came to know one another without the passion or sex or even the flower of friendship, all affection had evaporated. it can be corrosive. yet this particular experience greatly informs my daily life. my relationships. my choices. negative aspects like the fear of allowing vulnerability is just one by product. on the upside i am poised to be a better friend, lover, mate, partner.. the knife blade is two-sided. everything is a blessing and a curse..

i spend each day with people who have varying degrees of attachment to a common reality. everyone seeks something different. i have encouraged each to seek for their lives beyond our walls. to build relationships with clients and to excel at their craft for sure, but to begin to find whatever it is that will excite and fulfill them outside of their daily work. if it can be enfolded to enhance the work experience, all the better. though sometimes, sadly, people who have yet to discover or commit to a deeper passion will often show up with a common complaint or grudge. they nurse and protect and develop it while looking to ally with another kindred soul. it is human to be flawed and most of us, myself included, are blind to our baser motivations. still, this is where the line is drawn. in salon life, daily dissent can often be a part of the culture. sit in any salon break room long enough and you will get the full flavor of my thought. in the store, sarah and i have to work every day not to nurse a complaint or grudge. still, they exist. not feeding the little beasts is the only way to protect oneself from having them become full fledged monsters. but everything is a journey. and we both know what we have is wonderful. a great many years of toil and tears reminds us not to muck it up. i now see my salon team moving in the same direction. it offers me great hope.

as we begin 2018, i have invited my stylists to join me as partners in the salon and grooming lounge. my original inspirations and aspirations are finally bearing fruit. having enough of a solid team to build a collective, we are heading into the new year united. creating our daily work lives as a springboard toward building individual futures, most of which have yet to be fully formed. allowing others to contribute ultimately offers, i feel, a greater opportunity for everyone. but the act of change changes the nature of things, so whatever we think we might find ahead, we might find something completely different. but this i do know, i will spend each day in a house of ideas. of thoughts, and dreams and conversations in the sunlight. whispers and machinations have no place in the shadows of our daily lives, and certainly not in any house i have built. now i am greeted by the changes in the last few months, as those around me feel empowered to recreate the environment in a more egalitarian way. in the simplest of acts, my life is enriched by controlling less. by trusting. by letting go. yet always knowing my name will be the first called when something breaks or goes wrong :)  and that is certainly okay too.

the nature of retail is changing in ways almost alarming if it wasn't so spectacularly brilliant. though how we will flourish in a cyber world without aroma is a mystery beyond my comprehension. of course we will continue to expand our online presence, learning all we can about SEO and such. of building a brand within amazon.com while continuing to boost our online sales by pushing our comfort boundaries as far as they will go. this is the new world we live in, and each time i purchase from a small business online through amazon (weekly) i remember that i now have access to makers and craftsmen the world over thanks to this technology.

2017 has been some crazy shit. some would argue that president donald trump is destroying the world. i would argue that ignorance and disrespect does a far better job than any president. every time we walk into a walmart or costco or any other big box store that sells cheap goods and under values their workers, we do greater damage to the fabric of our society. that we allow our biased idealogical views to rule our political choices (left OR right) only serves to reenforce the cycle we cannot seemingly escape. that we trust a fourth estate that has veered wildly off course, and that the filters through which our information is disseminated have been created by and for profit. as greed wins, we lose. collectively, we now make our choices based upon our greatest fears rather than our greatest hopes. our need to consume is greater than our need to conserve. and i am at a loss as to how to move beyond these constructs, beyond these traits we all share together.

recently i was asked what i would do if i knew the end was only minutes away. i surprised myself in the reply that "i would go home and pour myself a hot bath and have a soak." it made me think. my life, such as it may be, all comes down to this. what i do today informs the way i live and the way i would choose to die. simple. random. basic.

something in me can't help but be convinced that the end is near. but then, the end is always near. and endings are often life's preamble to a fresh start.