Readers aren’t getting the memo that no one reads newspapers

Readers aren’t getting the memo that no one reads newspapers

Aaron Blanco, owner of Brown Coffee Co.
Aaron Blanco, owner of Brown Coffee Co.

With all the doom and gloom we keep hearing about newspapers, you’d think no one ever reads them. Tell that to Aaron Blanco.

Six days ago, reporter Brian Chasnoff wrote a cool feature story about Blanco and his company, Brown Coffee Co., where Blanco roasts fresh coffee beans in small batches to unlock pungent, fruity flavors. I live in the neighborhood and have known Blanco for several years, and I volunteered to make an online video for the story. Photographer Lisa Krantz also stopped by the café to shoot some photos.

The story, photos and video were published Sunday. And since then, Blanco said new customers keep walking in the door. Today, someone brought a copy of the article and asked for Blanco’s autograph.

“It’s been great,” Blanco told me today when I bought a coffee — and later an espresso. “The article has drawn quite a bit of business my way.”

With so many layoffs in the news business, many people assume that readers have abandoned newspapers in droves. While print circulation is certainly down, news stories still make the rounds in print and on the Web. We have a money problem, not a readership problem.

Last year, I ran into another business owner who was profiled in the newspaper, and he had the same experience as Blanco. A talented intern at the San Antonio Express-News, Jaime Klein, wrote about an obscure barbershop downtown in the basement of the Sheraton Gunter Hotel. Here’s how the story started:

The Gunter Hotel’s basement was once a men’s refuge. In the 1950s, a man could feast at Rathskeller’s buffet, get steamed in the Turkish bath and then talk shop while getting a shave, haircut and shoeshine at the hotel’s barbershop. Before venturing home, he could stop on the main level to buy jewelry for his wife.

Most of the businesses closed in the 1960s, and the hotel’s housekeeping services now surround the barbershop — which turned 100 this year, the sole survivor of the “men’s center.”

Lee Bosman, the shop’s owner, was lucky enough to see some of what he calls the “golden days.” At 27, after retiring from the Navy and a short stint with aviation company Swearingen, he graduated from barber college and started at the shop in 1975. He never left.

I had never heard of the barbershop, so I stopped by for a shave and a shine. Bosman, the owner, was raving about the article. In fact, he had it framed. And, like Blanco, Bosman said new, curious customers visited the shop after the story was published.

Bosman told me he had doubted, at first, that a young intern from the newspaper would “get” his business. But she did.

“She did a really good job,” Bosman said.

I don’t think newspapers are perfect. But clearly they’re still making a difference — even at small cafés and barbershops.