Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
April 1, 2014

Question: Our new store just opened last month and sales are steady and growing. When we did the build out, we ran into some unexpected issues that cost extra money to rectify, and we were not able to complete all our renovations. One thing that got ignored was our small, dingy bathroom. Everything is old and stained and there is no way I would let a customer in there! I even hate that our employees have to use it. A few customers have complained that we don’t have a restroom for their use. Are we required to?

Answer: I would check with your local building and zoning department because laws can vary from state to state, but as far as I know, you are not required to provide a public restroom. However, I do think it is very important to offer one, and I hope this is a top priority for you. Not having a customer restroom may mean some customers don’t come back, or at least don’t stay as long as they otherwise might.

Instead of just thinking of this as another expense, think of it as an opportunity for advertising and goodwill. You can create a delightful space, even if it is small, and provide samples of soaps and lotions you sell in your store. You can also decorate with artwork or make a collage of greeting cards you sell in your store to hang on the wall.

Also, be sure to check on whether you are in compliance with the ADA—Americans with Disabilities Act—or are required to be. If at all possible, making room for patrons in wheelchairs is the right thing to do.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to