Where’s My Sign

(WSVN) - Opening a small business is tough — opening a small business when another small business takes your money and doesn’t do the work can ruin some people. And it’s why one young entrepreneur called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Since he was 17 years old, Josiah Abreu has cut hair — dreaming of the day he would have his own barber shop.

Josiah Abreu: “It’s like a little baby of mine.”

And Josiah found out making the dream come true can be difficult.

Josiah Abreau: “I had to do a lot of sacrifices too, because whenever everybody was going out, I had to stay in, make sure I had the money — keep my mind set on what I wanted.”

Eleven years of sacrificing and saving, and then he had enough money to open the Cutting Edge Barber Shop in Kendall.

Josiah Abreau: “Obviously all the furniture, the deposits, the advertising, TVs, lighting, great barbers like I have.”

But if you drive down 137th Avenue near 96th Street in Kendall, you might miss the shop because one thing Josiah paid for is missing.

Josiah Abreau: “Luis came in. He said he was a sign guy. He showed me credentials. He showed me his past previous works. I said, ‘OK, this is perfect.'”

Josiah gave the owner of Pro Style Signs a $1300 deposit for a sign like this. But the only thing created was a digital rendering of what the sign would look like, and then …

Josiah Abreau: “He delayed the process. He would tell me he would start the process today. Two weeks passed — I haven’t received nothing.”

Turns out the sign man moved to Chicago. Josiah tracked him down.

Josiah Abreau: “I did a little bit of research, found him on Facebook. And then he called me, told me he was going to give me back my money. Right now, we are in our third month — still have received no money.”

Josiah worked hard to save the money to open Cutting Edge.

He stuck up a cheap plastic sign on the building and a sign beside the street to help attract customers because he doesn’t have the money to pay for a nice sign like this again.

Josiah Abreau: “I have no sign, and I have no money. At the moment, I’m just trying to keep the barber shop afloat.”

Well Howard, what are the odds of Josiah getting his money back?

Howard Finkelstein: “Very unlikely. When a small business like this sign company shuts down, customers are often left with nothing. You may wonder why this isn’t the crime of theft. Well, because the sign company owner did do a little work like a rendering of the sign, so you cannot prove he intended to steal the money and flee. Of course, you can sue him in small claims court, but odds are he won’t pay that.”

We contacted Luis Rosa in Chicago who owned Pro Style Signs. He has shut the business down.

He told us he was having hard times and doesn’t want a bad reputation, that he is looking for a job to pay Josiah back the $1300 he owes him.

Josiah is not holding his breathe waiting for the money.

Josiah Abreau: “So now I feel like I’ve been duped, feel like the guy is going to get away with what he did to me.”

Odds are he will, and odds are Josiah won’t have that nice sign he needed anytime soon either.

Josiah Abreau: “Still gotta come outta pocket with the sign money. And right now I can’t afford it just because school’s coming in — my kids need school clothes.”

Good luck with your barber business, Josiah. And one thing to remember — when you hire someone, whether it’s to fix your house or a business, remember to pay as they progress. Keep the deposit as small as possible, and only pay for work that is done. That way, if they walk away, you can continue on with someone else and not lose much money at all.

Stuck in a hairy situation you want to brush away? Ready to trim things back? Sign up with us.

We may not be sharp as a razor, but hopefully our solution will grow on you.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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