Monday, March 4, 2013
Help Me Howard: Store Signs
It's the dream of many people to open their own business. Of course it's tough and there are hurdles, but one thing you don't anticipate is the city or county slowing you from bringing in customers. It's what one woman is facing and it's why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Michele Errair: "The traffic on this street is going 40 to 50 miles per hour and most of the time they can't even see you. The sign is what's going to get their attention."
Michele owns Floral and Hearty Designs, where they sell silk trees, flowers and everything for a home.
Michele Errair: "We are trying to do everything we can to promote ourselves."
To attract customers, Michele puts up signs inside her store and people notice.
Michele Errair: "When we have a good sign in the window our sales will go up about 40 percent and when we don't have a good sign, you can immediately tell."
So you are thinking, 'Michele, keep the signs up'. If only she could...
Michele Errair: "Because they are saying we are in violation of the signage code in Coral Springs."
The city will allow signs that are at least three feet back from the window. Michele says people don't notice those from the road. She thinks the signs have to be closer to the window in order to be effective.
Michele Errair: "Up to 50 percent, there is nothing offensive. I don't see how this brings down any aesthetics. I think it's done in good taste."
But if Michele hangs a sign in the window, the city tells her she has to take them down. Take them down and Michele says her business drops dramatically. That's what we call a dilemma.
Michele Errair: "I always thought the economy and the competitors would be the hardest thing to fight, but it's actually been the code enforcement."
Michele met with Coral Springs elected officials and code compliance officials, but no luck.
Michele Errair: "They all tell me that the code is there for a reason and they can't break the code because it will open Pandora's box."
For Michele, if they don't open that box and let her put up signs inside her store, she might have to close her doors and shut down.
Michele Errair: "For some reason they would rather see 'for sale' and 'for lease' signs in windows than businesses trying to promote themselves, which doesn't make sense to me either."
Michele has another Floral and Hearty Designs store in Boca and puts up the same signs for promotions.
Michele Errair: "Nothing will happen. In Boca they try to help the businesses promote themselves."
Now code compliance officers are only doing their job, enforcing the codes they are handed.
But Michele says, in this case the rules are hurting businesses.
Michele Errair: "It's very frustrating. Very frustrating."
Well Howard, can a city control the signs you put up inside your store?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, the city can probably do this because the law gives government agencies great power to regulate signage. But politically, it may not be smart to do because cities need businesses to thrive and residents to have a good quality of life. If businesses are hurt, the residents suffer and the city suffers. So cities have to strike the right balance."
I spoke to code compliance in Coral Springs and they are trying to help.
Jackie Foster told me they have surveyed business owners trying to determine what size signs would work and where the signs could be placed. Code compliance will present their findings to the city council. In the meantime, there will be no more citations while they work on this.
Howard Finkelstein: "Good cities do what was done in this case. When you govern its best to find out what the people want before you tell them what to do. Coral Springs is collecting the information and hopefully will make a choice that finds that balance that is so important."
Give Coral Springs credit. They have acknowledged they may need to make some changes and Michele says hopefully the changes will come soon.
Michele Errair: "Or they are going to have more empty buildings, more people are going to leave Coral Springs and go to other cities that are more accommodating to businesses."
Now I am not saying Coral Springs has some strict sign laws, but they are the only city we know of in America that blocked McDonalds from putting up the golden arches at their restaurant. It didn't meet their standards.
Anyway, hopefully when the city gets through, businesses will be a little happier and have a little more flexibility to attract customers.
Seeing signs of a problem you don't want enforced?
Need someone as smooth as a silk flower? Well that's not us but we can plant a few ideas that might grow on you. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser 7News.
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