Let’s be honest: It’s not a pretty dummy. The guy is wearing a mask with a cigarette butt in his teeth, and he’s holding an empty booze bottle in his rubber hand.
But according to Terry Conley, his dummy, or “doll,” has been an icon at his shop for 27 of the 32 years Conley has owned Terry’s For Men’s and Women’s Hair, at Palm Harbor Shopping Center, and it’s crucial for his business.
“For about the last 10 to 12 years, I’ve been working by myself,” Conley said. “I’ve told my customers, ‘If he’s not out there, don’t bother stopping because I’m not open.’ I use him as my marketing.”
Conley recently received a letter from the center’s new management, telling him he’s got to stick to his lease, which says nothing of the kind is allowed at the storefronts.
Now, the dummy is gone, and Conley has had longtime customers come in to tell him they thought he’d gone out of business.
Roger Desaulniers is a snowbird from Connecticut. “I was down here one day with the wife, and I walked by the store, and I didn’t see the dummy outside,” Desaulniers recalled. “I said, ‘What happened to our buddy?’ It was a fixture. It’s like McDonald’s getting rid of the ‘M.’”
Desaulniers feels it would be fairer for Conley’s dummy-doll to be grandfathered in and allowed to stay.
Conley doesn’t want to make waves with the ownership, so he’s complying with the lease. But he said he wished the rule would be consistently applied throughout the center.
“I started the Merchants Association here, so I’m very involved here and still am, and I do my best to abide by everything they do,” Conley said. “I don’t want to start anything with other owners, but there isn’t anything that’s classically fair about it.”