Repurposing empty buildings as business storage or a warehouse is a common small business practice in small towns. Putting up a sign is a good idea for at least two reasons.
Retail businesses may be storing extra merchandise. Manufacturers might have extra materials or finished product ready to ship. Service and repair companies have to store parts and accessories somewhere.
A sign makes your town look better
If there’s no sign, people will assume it’s an empty building or full of someone’s junk. If there’s a sign, it’s a business. That’s just natural.
And doesn’t an active business building seem better than yet another empty building? Rural expert Deb Brown pointed this out to me, and I agree. Here’s an example building she found. It’s clean and well-maintained, but there’s no sign! It might be someone’s muscle car collection, or a social club, or a local manufacturer. We just don’t know! (And we probably assume the worst.)
Before you tell me everyone in town knows, remember that other people drive by. People visiting town have no idea whether it’s junk or an active business. That might include people considering moving to town or businesses considering your community.
Put up a sign on your warehouse and storage buildings, and you’re contributing to a town that looks more active and prosperous. That’s good economic and community development.
It might deter thieves
My first thought about putting up a sign was that it might make your business a target for theft. So I asked someone who has some insight into the thought process of people who break into rural buildings.
Your local thieves already know what’s in there. Adding a sign does not change that. (Hint: Didn’t you just tell me everyone in town knows?)
Thieves are more likely to look for buildings that don’t get a lot of traffic. If there are weeds growing up and not many tracks and no sign, that looks like a better target.
Here’s an example I saw. It’s not as well maintained, but clearly in somewhat current use. The old faded sign could be replaced with something new that mentions the local business that uses this building. And a little paint on the door and trim wouldn’t hurt either.
Adding a sign makes it look more like you’re there often, so that makes it slightly less attractive as a theft target. Will a sign stop all break ins? Of course not.
Bonus points: Make a window display
Billy Cook Harness and Classic Saddles in Sulphur, Oklahoma, uses a repurposed downtown building for warehouse and shipping. They’ve put a display of saddles and the templates used to make them in the window along with a sign. You can see by the pile of boxes that I came by right before the shipper picked up for the day.
This window display and sign makes the building and downtown look much better than just another empty building used for storage of who knows what.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.