"I am watching one of your YouTube videos, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on spiritual/New Age stores.
"I do know that it is best for the business location to have some sort of draw. I am located right on the main strip between two cities that have these kinds of retail shops, which I feel makes it an ideal location. Could you tell me whether you think it would be a good idea? The shop would be a spiritual/New Age/occult shop and coffee shop. I am also licensed to do fortune-telling (a license is required here).
"The majority of our sales would come from things like figurines, books, crystals and my readings, along with coffee and snacks. The proposed location is close to a deli and a high school, and across the street from a very popular bar."
First of all, if you are a professional fortune-teller, shouldn't you already know whether the business would be successful? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
I have nothing against spiritual, occult or New Age businesses. I actually represent several, including one that specializes in past-life regression analysis (using hypnosis to determine who someone was in past lives).
You seem to be combining two very different types of business, and I'm not sure I see the synergy between the two. I get that you want the coffee shop to generate foot traffic for the fortune-telling and occult merchandise. I also get that you want to balance the fortune-telling business, which will likely attract customers in the evening, with a business that will generate traffic during the day. But I fear that nonbelievers will be nervous about frequenting a shop like yours just to get a cup of coffee, which they can probably get at the deli next door or the Starbucks down the road. Also, an occult business is, by definition, a destination business, so you shouldn't need to be located on a main drag to be successful.
The most successful occult businesses I know are in large cities, amusement areas or neighborhoods catering to a hipster or alternative clientele — with piercing shops and tattoo parlors nearby. Most of your customers will likely be impulse buyers, who might see your sign after an evening out on the town and say, "Hey, that looks like fun, let's have our palms read." For that reason, I like the idea of your business being located across the street from a popular bar, especially if it features live music, and especially if it hosts rock, metal or blues bands.
You are not likely to have much repeat business, except perhaps those who come for the occult tchotchkes (and I would keep a wary eye on those folks — anyone who needs more than one Pentagram pendant for their wardrobe might have, shall we say, issues?) Being close to a high school could be an advantage, in that students who are rock, punk or metal fans might want occult items as fashion accessories. But depending on the part of the country you are operating in, you might attract accusations of promoting satanism and corrupting the minds of young religious people.
Your location will be key to the success of this business. It should be discreet (some people won't want to be seen frequenting a fortune-teller), yet visible enough to draw impulse customers. A second-story location with a neon sign in the window would be ideal, if local zoning regulations allow. I would keep the floor space as small as possible. And because your cash flow will be extremely unpredictable (at least for a year or two), I wouldn't lock myself into a long-term lease.
See if there are any alternative-style weekly newspapers in your area — publications that say what bands are playing in which local venues. These often feature ads for New Age-type businesses and will give you an idea of the size of your market and the number of competitors in your area.
Finally, remember that you are in show business. While I don't doubt that you sincerely believe in what you do, most of your customers will be there for the experience. Give them what they're looking for. Dress the part, act the part, and promote the heck out of your business in the weeks leading up to Halloween. After all, to some extent you and I are in similar businesses. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a woman, in Gypsy clothing, standing in front of a shop window with a sign reading "Reader, Advisor, Attorney at Law."
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.