(Reuters) - After more than 20 years of renting chairs from other barbers, Gregory Burnett finally opened his own shop, but the down economy has been hard on the haircut business.
"It is one of the first things that people cut back on," said Burnett, owner of Old School Barber Shop in Canton, Ohio.
So two months ago Burnett put a sign in front of his place to let clients choose how much to pay. "Times are hard," it read. "Pay what you can for a cut."
As Americans have struggled with haircuts of a different kind on the plummeting values of their homes, the idea was to draw in new patrons and help the clients who have been with him for decades, and it seems to be working. "People come in and want to take advantage of the deal," Burnett said.
For the last two years Burnett has charged $12 for a man's haircut, but recently has given one for as little as $5. "I tell people the haircut is free. The charge is for sitting in the chair," he said.
Burnett said he hoped that a good haircut might mean a new job for one of his clients, and he liked the idea of helping people out. "I understand their troubles because I have their troubles," he said.
Business picked up immediately after Burnett began his new "make-me-an-offer" promotion. "I'm surprised by all the attention this is getting," he said. "You never know. Maybe this is the way I will come out of this rut."
Burnett promises lively conversation and said he loves what he does. He hopes the uptick in business means he can keep his shop.
"I had my first job shining shoes when I was 12 years old. I guess I've always been an entrepreneur. I'm always trying to hustle," he said.
(Writing and reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)
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