I went into the AOS store and had a little chat with the man inside. He had a vest and tie on and looked like he may be in place next to the barber chair prominently displayed in the front window.
The air of nostalgia ended quickly when I chatted him up. He was quick to show me the new seaweed line of products and gave me some samples. He showed me some brushes and even let me play around with the Power brush they have for sale. It only shakes. No swirl or spin. It only shakes like their razors do when you turn it on. An odd and puzzling addition to badger brush.
Then he showed me some cartridge razors with varying degrees of opulent handles. When I asked about double edge razors he directed my attention to some Merkur razors. All nicely displayed and seriously over priced. I pointed at the VISION and he excitedly pulled it out to show how it opens and closes. He started to tell me how it was Titanium. (it's plated zamak- we all saw so on How it's Made..) I didn't argue the details since he had a glimmer of excitement in his eye. Especially when he told me that an item could be mine for the princely sum of $220 or so.. Just the VISION, no stand of accessories. I sighed, and asked what kind of blades to use it such a razor.
He showed me a small drawer with a glass lid that had three packs of double edge blades. Merkur and two Gillette branded blades. I didn't look closely as he continued to spew pricing and told me the Merkur blades were such a great deal compared to Fusion carts at $15 for a ten pack and the Gillette DE blades, which I think were Russian packs, were available for $10 per pack.
I politely thanked him for showing me around the very small shop. It was about the size of my living room. As I turned to leave he stopped me to look at the AOS starter kit that they had in a leather travel case. He surely thought I'd see the value it that. "The brush," he said with enthusiasm, "it is the travel size that costs $60 over here, but comes for free with the little travel set that costs $75." I said, "that's nice."
I bought an AOS starter set last Christmas online, without a leather pouch, for $25 for my brother. The brush is badger, but it is one of the smallest brushes that could possibly be practical for shaving.
Again I thanked him for the samples and strolled across the street to have lunch at Houston's.
I was surprised by the barber chair and the wide variety of creams, lotions, and cartridge handles on display. The store was clean and well kept with a sink and various products and brushes out for smelling and test lathering. I was most surprised by the clerks total lack of perspective and understanding of the different grades of brushes and the relative prices of the DE gear.
The fact that he claimed the Merkur VISION was Titanium was enough to remind me that I was not in an actual shaving gear store. I was in a branded re-education center that had Fusion and Mach III prominently displayed all around.
The soaps are very nice and the wide range of options is nice. There seems to be a disconnect though to sell Power Cartridge handles to be used with them.
I did ask if any of the beautiful, and they really were very nice, handles were available with Sensor or Atra heads. He held back a giggle and with a little smirk told me that those products are not really used any more and were not for sale.
The had straights and shavettes as well. I saw some strops and very nice DOPP kits. Alas, I did not see much I could afford, and saw nothing I could not live without.
Like every store I visited, the salesman was very cordial and happy to help.
At Diebl's I was happy to see they had plenty of soaps and creams available. A somewhat limited selection compared to any online vendor, but they did have Edwin Jagger products and others that I found familiar. Their selection of DE razors and other hardware is limited and priced above what it is available for online as well, but not to the extent that the AOS store had priced everything to a premium.
The guy I was with at Diebel's picked up some Sea Buckthorn and a few cigars. I just enjoyed strolling around and looking at the pens and pipes they have.
I did have one regret. I didn't make it to Arthur Bryant's while I was in KC...