If a business' sign is its public face, a lot of businesses on Central Avenue aren't making a very good first impression.
A drive down the thoroughfare showcases an awful lot of signage that needs more than a light sprucing up. Graffiti is rampant. So are misspellings. Rather than attach signs to their stores, many business owners opt to paint store names, information and bargains onto the building itself – which leads to fading and peeling, which leads to unreadability.
There's also the gaudy factor: One sign boasts impossible-to-miss neon backing; another features painted illustrations of some of the goods the store sells; yet another includes painted symbols of the store's practice.
And then the vagueness: One laundromat simply says "wash" over its entrance. Granted, it gets the point across, but it's got a long way to go in terms of branding.
While this is no doubt part of the area's unassuming and informal charm, Lynda Wilson, managing partner at Box Brothers on Central Avenue and member of the Central Avenue Business Association, says it's also not the best for business.
"When you're talking about storefront signage on Central, I personally think it's tacky," she said. "I think there should be a type of uniformity, because we really want to present the neighborhood with uniformity. Right now we're sort of willy nilly."
With the area's sort of smorgasbord of businesses, signage and advertising, Wilson said Central Avenue is reminiscent of Tijuana.
"Is your business welcoming? Do I have to walk through trash to get to your store? Is there graffiti in your signage? Does that attract customers?" Wilson asked rhetorically. "Are those the customers you want to attract? Does that matter to the business owner? It matters to me."
It all goes back to "curb appeal," she says. If she had to grade the block she's on – she's in the relatively new Rittenhouse Square development – she'd give it a 10, without skipping a beat.
"But Central Avenue in general?" Wilson said. "It's about a three."
All photos by José Martinez.