How the Snow & Sidewalks Saved Me $11,445.99

Saint Paul’s Smith Avenue, looking toward the high bridge.

I live in St. Paul on the border of West St. Paul, just off Smith & Annapoils. I walked to the grocery store (I heart you, Oxendale’s) on Tuesday morning because I live in a walkable neighborhood so I do that. On the way home I was passing a local barbershop (The Hair Shoppe) and upon seeing it was indeed open, and empty, I decided to pop in to get a quick trim. The shop was empty except for Jeff, the barber, and he looked startled to see me and even more startled when I asked if I could get a haircut.

(Note: I am a woman but have what Ron Swanson would classify as one of the three acceptable types of haircuts – high and tight, crew cut, and buzz cut.)

I took off my hat and his face relaxed and he said yes, he had time to cut my hair. I hopped in up in the chair and we starting discussing, what else?, the weather. He said he was thinking of closing up shop early due to the snow and lack of traffic. I asked him how business was and he said it was just okay. I asked if the High Bridge closing down had affected his business and he said he has noticed less car traffic for sure. We talked about the announcement by Simply Vintage, an antique store, that they are closing due to a decline in business since the bridge closed. As Jeff finished up my Swanson-approved $12 haircut I took his card and promised not only would I be back, I’d be bringing my son in as well. ($10 cuts for kids!)

I left wondering why in such a walkable neighborhood as mine any of the small businesses along Smith Avenue should have trouble staying afloat because the bridge two miles down the road was closed. We have plenty of people on this side of the river and although the closure of the bridge is certainly inconvenient, I can’t believe the only people getting haircuts and buying antiques get here exclusively via that bridge. I bought my house specifically because I wanted to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks connecting me to restaurants, coffee shops, barbershops, pet salons, grocery stores, and yes, even antique shops, so my son and I both could walk (and he bike) to these places safely and easily. It bothered me that these businesses were so dependent on car traffic that infrastructure repairs could be their demise. Maybe sidewalks aren’t enough if people don’t actually get out on them.

Later that day my son and I walked back up to the The Hair Shoppe to get him a cut. But Jeff had gone home early; business was slow that day. We then stopped in at a local restaurant for lunch (Cherokee Tavern – free lunch for kids on this Snow Day!). I returned to the Cherokee that night again for dinner with my neighbors. I’m going to have to double down on my meals out and my haircuts until that bridge opens up again!

I figure my impulsive stop at The Hair Shoppe on that wintery wonderland of a day will save me at least $11,445.99 over the next 40 years. Rather than paying $45 at a salon for a cut I can now pay $12. Multiply that by 8.6 haircuts per year X 40 years and that is $11,440 in savings. (The kid’s lunch at the Cherokee was $5.99.) I’m not even figuring in the cost of gas to drive to the salon and all the fancy products I wind up buying when I’m there, or the benefit of utilitarian exercise and not having to pay for a gym membership. But you see my point.

Other Smith Avenue businesses that we frequent via foot and bicycle include The Capitol View Cafe, Amore Coffee, Capital City Bikes, Smith Avenue Liquor, #1 New China, Chin Chin, Bubbles & eCouture, The Pizza Shop, and Artitude. So, next time you’re over in my neck of the woods (however you get here), stop in at one of these fine neighborhood establishments and help them survive until our bridge reopens in December, 2018. Who knows, you may just save yourself twelve grand.

A Smith Avenue sidewalk.