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Sunday, April 17, 2011


City bans red, white and blue barbershop poles

denver and the west

Poles apart on barbershop signs in Thornton

Mitchell Byars
The Denver Post
Posted: 04/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 04/16/2011 12:30:17 PM MDT

Lori Madrid cuts a customer's hair at Thornton Family Barbershop, which keeps its barber pole on top of the snack machine near her station after the store was told it could not be placed outside. The same is true at its sister shop, Brian's Barbers. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post )

For years, spinning red, white and blue poles could always be spotted outside neighborhood barbershops.

But in the city of Thornton, the poles may soon be little more than quaint artifacts in antique shops.

Brian Thornton, who is opening Brian's Barbers in Thornton, said he tried to erect a barber pole in front of his store, but the city's sign codes say he can't.

"The actual pole in this feast-or-famine business is a small thing, but it gets traditional customers through the door," said Thornton, who also owns Thornton Family Barbershop. "When you see that pole, you get the message out there that you can get a great haircut here."

Thornton's sign code bans new signs that move mechanically, which would include revolving barber poles.

"It is related to public safety," said Robin Brown, a senior analyst with the City Development Department. "We don't want signs to be distracting, especially to motorists."

Barber poles that don't rotate are fine under the code, Brown said.

Tough sign codes are only one of the reasons barber poles have disappeared from the American landscape.

The family-owned and operated William Marvy Co. in St. Paul, Minn., is the only company in the U.S. that still manufactures them.

Owner Bob Marvy, who inherited the company from his father, William Marvy, and has three sons in the business with him, said the company sold more than 5,000 barber poles in 1967. Today, it sells about 500 a year. Restrictions in cities and major shopping malls, as well as competition from Chinese companies, have cut into business.

"I don't think it will ever get back to where it was before," Marvy said. "But there is definitely still an interest. Everybody knows what it means, so it's an inexpensive way to show off your business. People who see it two blocks away still know they can get their hair cut there."

In place of a pole, Brian Thornton said he will probably hire some sidewalk sign spinners to draw people into the shop. But, he said, spinners are costly and probably just as distracting to drivers as a rotating pole.

He said the city's policy favors chain salons that can afford advertising and flashy neon signs to attract customers. Those shops, he said, don't typically use barber poles.

Analyst Brown said the city is having a planning meeting in early May to discuss potential changes to the sign code that would allow rotating signs, with a few size and placement restrictions.

Marvy said several cities reverse themselves to allow barber poles, if only for old-time's sake.

"It's kind of nostalgic, kind of American," Marvy said. "It's an apple pie thing."

Read more: Poles apart on barbershop signs in Thornton - The Denver Post

What are these people smoking? A driver doesn't fixate on a spinning barber sign. they may see it out of the corner of their eye, but it's not a take your eye off the road thing as these political fixations pretend it to be. They have nothing better to do than to be the first to show how dumb this is. IMHO, I think their undergarments are cutting off their oxygen supply...!
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