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Old 28.11.2011, 16:28
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How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

Probably more applicable to small town living than the heaving metropoli of Geneva, Basel and Zurich, but what are the most incongruous businesses in your local town in which you never see anybody and wonder how or why they were established in the first place.

On my regular walks through Thun, the Hammock Store, the Panpipe store and the English Food store always seem very quiet, but the one which takes the biscuit is the Harspicord store. Not even a piano store, but a harpsicord specialist. How many harpsicords can there BE in Switzerland, let alone in the Oberland area?!!

Anyway - what is the most specialised store in your local area which makes you wonder about its customer base??
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Old 28.11.2011, 16:38
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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How many harpsicords can there BE in Switzerland, let alone in the Oberland area?!!
Probably more than then number of stores?? If you can send me the address I'd appreciate it - I have been pulling my hair out wondering where I can get one.

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Old 28.11.2011, 17:18
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

I can imagine relaxing in a hammock, playing my pan pipes and munching on chocolate hob nobs. But a harpiscord? That just doesn't fit into my lifestyle.
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Old 28.11.2011, 17:24
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There is a store specialising in books about rocks and geology in the small town of Rheinfelden east of Basel. I always wondered about that one - must be a real labour of love.
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Old 28.11.2011, 17:43
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

A shop called Fish & Birds in our little town - quaint handmade decor items in the windows.

A ma-and-pa office machines shop advertising a typewriting course.
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Old 28.11.2011, 17:50
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There is a fastnacht shop in Kleinbasel which sells masks, drums and other fastnacht paraphernalia
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Old 28.11.2011, 17:50
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There is a shop in town that has a lovely display of... nozzles... in the window.

That's it.

I have no idea what the business does. Is it retail outlet selling to the nozzle-buying public? Is it a manufacturer of specialty nozzles? Experts in nozzle installation? Purveyors of nozzle advice?

Haven't had a chance to ask, as the store never seems to be open. (But the display is regularly dusted, so I think it's a going concern.)
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Old 28.11.2011, 17:59
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There used to be a store down my road specialising entirely in darts boards. That they went out of business didn't surprise me really. What surprised me more is that anybody thought it was a profitable venture. That location seems to be jinxed as before that there was a store selling over-priced Asian furniture. They only had about three items on display, all three in serious need of some major restoration (heavily battered and bits missing) and not especially practical. I went in once just out of interest and the guy didn't seem to know much about the furniture and didn't seem especially interested in selling it but wanted to talk me into buying an overpriced apple peeler.
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Old 28.11.2011, 18:26
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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Probably more applicable to small town living than the heaving metropoli of Geneva, Basel and Zurich, but what are the most incongruous businesses in your local town in which you never see anybody and wonder how or why they were established in the first place.

On my regular walks through Thun, the Hammock Store, the Panpipe store and the English Food store always seem very quiet, but the one which takes the biscuit is the Harspicord store. Not even a piano store, but a harpsicord specialist. How many harpsicords can there BE in Switzerland, let alone in the Oberland area?!!

Anyway - what is the most specialised store in your local area which makes you wonder about its customer base??
I know of three luthier in Geneva. It sort of surprises me. 1. Geneve is super expensive as you've mentioned & 2. is there really that much of a market to sustain more than one?

I guess it just shows our lack of knowledge of the musical instrument market.

There is also a cowboy boot store in Lausanne. I've never actually seen anyone in Switzerland wearing cowboy boots.
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Old 28.11.2011, 18:27
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

We have, what I think is, a Photography Studio. It`s never open. But has photos hanging in the window, so must be a photography studio?

It`s a huge shop, I know because I used to fantasize about having a lovely second hand shop in there. It used to be a Lampshade shop but went out of business. And long long ago, about 50 years ago it was the local shoe shop, in the days before locals had motor cars and possibly also public transport.

But now its a photo shop. In the days when everyone has digital cameras and computers and printers ....?
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Old 28.11.2011, 18:43
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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There is a shop in town that has a lovely display of... nozzles... in the window.

That's it.

I have no idea what the business does. Is it retail outlet selling to the nozzle-buying public? Is it a manufacturer of specialty nozzles? Experts in nozzle installation? Purveyors of nozzle advice?

Haven't had a chance to ask, as the store never seems to be open. (But the display is regularly dusted, so I think it's a going concern.)
PERFECT! That's EXACTLY the kind of place I was looking for!!

I guess he'd argue....where else could you possibly get a nozzle??

(An idea is forming in my mind of some kind of EF FlashMob to these places!)
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Old 28.11.2011, 18:53
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There is a shop around the corner from me that specialises in "Old English, Leather Suitcases. I have never seen it open so thought I would check it out today. And... not a single one of the suitcases in the window display were English
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Old 28.11.2011, 18:59
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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On my regular walks through Thun, the Hammock Store, the Panpipe store and the English Food store always seem very quiet, but the one which takes the biscuit is the Harspicord store. Not even a piano store, but a harpsicord specialist. How many harpsicords can there BE in Switzerland, let alone in the Oberland area?!!
I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that many/most musical instrument shops make their money not so much on sales, but on service and repairs (and possibly lessons!). That's how computer shops operate, curiously enough.

But I agree, there are many shops in Switzerland where I wonder how on earth they could even break even, never mind turn a profit. Many of them are old shops, and I can only assume that the proprietors own the building, since they could never afford the rent on the retail space.
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:04
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

There is also a shop in Lausanne that sells pepper spray. But it's attached to a garage that runs charter buses, like 12 pax ones not great big ones. I'm guessing that the money comes really from the bus part of the operation. Diversify. That's the key!
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:04
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

I remember an accounting lesson back at school where we were taught how a wealthy husband could setup that kind of business for their wife and reap some tax benefits. The business is not really expected to be profitable, it is more a way to keep the wife busy.

This sounds sexist and cynical. I'd be happy to learn of other reasons for those ventures to exist, and often to keep operating despite the obvious lack of business.
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:09
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that many/most musical instrument shops make their money not so much on sales, but on service and repairs (and possibly lessons!). That's how computer shops operate, curiously enough.
Of course - how silly of me...the lucrative harpsicord repair market in the Interlaken area
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:10
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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There is a fastnacht shop in Kleinbasel which sells masks, drums and other fastnacht paraphernalia
My impression of the Fastnacht phenomenon in Basel is that preparation for the following year's Fastnacht begins after the current festival ends. Having watched several hours of the parade, I could believe this.
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:23
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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I remember an accounting lesson back at school where we were taught how a wealthy husband could setup that kind of business for their wife and reap some tax benefits. The business is not really expected to be profitable, it is more a way to keep the wife busy.

This sounds sexist and cynical. I'd be happy to learn of other reasons for those ventures to exist, and often to keep operating despite the obvious lack of business.
Some of these stores don't actually sound like "wife" type stores. But I can guess some of these smaller gift/clothes stores don't make too huge profits.

But, it's true that if you own a store you can also buy things tax free.
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Old 28.11.2011, 19:28
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

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Of course - how silly of me...the lucrative harpsicord repair market in the Interlaken area
given the swiss prices, they'd probably only need to sell one per decade to be profitable.
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Old 28.11.2011, 20:02
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Re: How do they make a living? Odd commercial ventures

Well here in Wollishofen (ZH), there are at least 4 second-hand shops, 6 flower shops, and about the same number of hairdressers. Some of them I have been commuting past for years, and I have never seen anyone going into them...
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