Use the building as a warehouse or warehouse in a small town? Place a sign

Converting empty buildings into business warehouses or warehouses is a common practice for small businesses in small towns. Marking is a good idea for at least two reasons.

Retail businesses may stock additional products. Manufacturers may have additional materials or finished products for shipment. Service and repair companies need to keep spare parts and supplies somewhere.

A sign makes your city look better

If there’s no sign, people will assume it’s an empty building or full of someone’s trash. If there’s a sign, it’s a business. It’s just natural.

And doesn’t an active business building look better than another empty building? Agriculturalist Deb Brown pointed this out to me, and I agree. Here is an example of a building he found. It is clean and well maintained, but there is no sign. It could 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).

Clean and well maintained building with lawn chairs used as a break area.  It is a business warehouse, but there is no sign.

Photo by Deb Brown

Before you tell me that everyone in town knows, remember that other people drive. People visiting the town have no idea if it’s junk or an active business. This could include people considering moving to the city or businesses considering your community.

Put a sign on your warehouses and storage buildings and you contribute to a city that looks more active and prosperous. It’s good economic and community development.

It can deter thieves

My first thought about putting up a sign was that it could make your business a target for theft. So I asked someone who has some insight into the thought process of people breaking into rural buildings.

Your local thieves already know what’s out there. Adding a sign doesn’t change that. (Hint: You didn’t tell me everyone in town knows?)

Thieves are more likely to look for buildings that don’t have a lot of traffic. If there are weeds growing and not many tracks and no signs, it looks like a better target.

Here is an example I saw. It is not very well preserved, but clearly in some current use. The old faded sign may be replaced with a new one that identifies the local business that uses this building. And a little paint on the door and trim wouldn’t hurt either.

A building used as a business warehouse with an old faded sign that says "Carrier air conditioner"

Photo by Becky McCray

Adding a sign makes it look more like you’re there often, so it makes it a little less attractive as a target for theft. Will the token stop all intrusions? Of course no.

Bonus points. Create a window display

Billy Cook Harness and Classic Saddles in Sulphur, Oklahoma, uses a converted downtown building for storage and shipping. They put up a display of saddles and the molds used to make them in the window, along with a sign. You can see from the stack of boxes that I walked past right before I picked up the courier.

This window display and sign makes the building and downtown look so much better than just another empty building being used to store who knows what.

A converted retail building in the center is used by a saddle maker for storage and warehousing.  A window display shows saddles and the molds used to make them.  A sign says "Billy Cook armor." Several boxes of saddles and accessories are outside ready to be picked up by the delivery company.

Photo by Becky McCray

Send us your small town business stories and let us know what questions you have.

About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town entrepreneurs. She and her husband own a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.

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