It's no secret that South L.A. signage – on Central Avenue in particular – could be more welcoming.
But that's exactly what the Central Avenue Beautification Project is trying to fix. The project is aimed at restoring storefronts along Central with the intent of boosting the area's slow but steady economic growth. It is a collaboration among the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), the Central Avenue Business Association (CABA) and the Sierra Service Project.
"It's mostly repainting," said Grant Sunoo, CRCD's director of real estate and economic development. "There's also a fair amount of prep work, like re-caulking stuff, scraping up old paint."
Sunoo says the primary goal of the project is to "beautify the business corridor."
"It's an area that's been neglected and it's a good opportunity to get the business owners engaged in their community," he said.
It's also an area where a bad sign can mean less or lost business. In June, Lynda Wilson, managing partner at Box Brothers on Central Avenue, rated Central Avenue a three out of 10 on "curb appeal."
"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?" she asked. "Are those the customers you want to attract? Does that matter to the business owner? It matters to me."
Sunoo said the project started on July 9 and will go until August 10, and that the organizing partners reached out to six businesses this year to help make their storefronts more presentable.
"Obviously we hope having a refreshed facade will attract businesses, more customers and shoppers to Central Avenue," he said. "It's part of an ongoing effort up and down the Central Avenue corridor to improve their streetscape and beautify the community."
Maria Palmas owns Las Palmas Carniceria, one of the businesses getting a facade facelift. (Or should that be facade-lift?) She said volunteers will start working on her store soon.
"It marks a change that will improve the avenue," she said in Spanish. "We hope it improves business. The entire community will improve."
VZ Hair Design is also getting a refreshed facade, and owner Virginia Carrillo says that gives potential consumers a good impression – even when business isn't doing so well behind the scenes.
"People will be able to see we're doing better, even though sometimes things are very tough," she said. "But just by the building's looking better, it's more inviting to people who live downtown or in other areas to come to Central Avenue."
Sunoo said the organizers are asking businesses to help cover the cost of the paint, and that the Sierra Service Project is providing the volunteers.
"Generally the response has been really favorable," he said. "It's a good benefit to them. They're happy we're building community."
Cecilia Ngo, a community development associate for CRCD, said the four other businesses who have undergone or will undergo storefront renewal are Las Palmas Part Supply, Eloisa's Plaza, Central Video and Montes de Oca Auto Supply.