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Thread: Cluttered business signs in the ghetto - why?

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Cluttered business signs in the ghetto - why?

    This is a question that is more about culture than zoning, so I"m dropping it into the FAC.


    Living not far from inner city Cleveland, I noticed that business signs in inner city, predominantly minority neighborhoods tend to cram in a lot of information.

    For example, a convenience store in the suburbs will have a sign that reads:
    Joe's Convenience Store
    In the ghetto, the sign will read:

    JOE'S CONVENIENCE STORE CO. INC.
    BREAD - COLD CUTS - PAPER PRODUCTS - POP - BEER - CIGARETTES - ICE - JUICE - LOTTO - NEWSPAPERS - MAGAZINES - COLD DRINKS - FROZEN FOOD

    867-5309
    It's the same with most businesses in the 'hood. Where in the 'burbs, a sign will display just the business name, in the inner city it includes all the services and products offered, along with a phone number.

    Why are business signs in low-income urban areas like this? Do the business owners feel their clientele are less intelligent, and thus need the business explained to them? Is it cultural? Business owners who aren't savvy about marketing? Something else? I'm mystified about why phone numbers appear on most ghetto business signs, too. Do inner city residents have a need to call businesses more so than those in the suburbs?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Business owners who aren't savvy about marketing?
    That's my guess.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    maudit anglais
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    Maybe it's more of a "corporate" chain retail v. independent retail thing. The corporations have advertising dollars and an "image" while mom 'n' pop places need to rely on other methods. I really would not present it as an ethnic issue - that's misleading IMHO.

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    It seems kind of like those "Buy here, Pay here" car commercials that are five times louder than TV show that you are watching. It's as if you are on the down-side of the economic scale you have to be yelled at in order to process information - like they're yelling at people with those signs.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I guess it's just because they don't know much about advertisment, and they try to communicate too much, in too little space; making their message quite unreadable, due to clutter. All that information, much of it quite irrelevant; in such a small space blinds anybody who reads it, and the message doesn't go though. Quite sad, actually, since they're the ones that need advertising the most.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    That is their advertisment! You gotta get the message out that your just not a convenience store, but it is an all one in stop shop! They don't take out newspaper ads, they don't advertise on the radio or tv.

    Plus, suburban locations may have more restrictive local laws OR if Joe's Mini Mart is in a leased strip center unit, the strip center owners may have imposed certain restrictions.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7
    I always noticed in Detroit that as soon as you crossed Eight Mile or other boundary street, there would be an instant barage of ugly, boxy, gnashing yellow signs on commercial properties. Most often they would say "Beer-Liquor-Wine" or some variation thereof, almost always with big-block red lettering. It seemed that you could almost draw the municipal boundary of Detroit by denoting where these ugly yellow signs abruptly ended.

  8. #8
    I have also wondered why, in many low-income urban areas, signs for grocery/convenience also include the message "We take food stamps". Don't all grocery/convenience stores have to take food stamps for qualified items?

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    I really would not present it as an ethnic issue - that's misleading IMHO.
    I posed the question only because I noticed that there's a great similarity between signs in America's inner cities, and those seen in African cities. Google Ghana signs, and what comes up will look surprisingly like what you'll see in an American 'hood.

    Ghana:





    US inner city:



    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    It's the same with most businesses in the 'hood. Where in the 'burbs, a sign will display just the business name, in the inner city it includes all the services and products offered, along with a phone number.

    Why are business signs in low-income urban areas like this? Do the business owners feel their clientele are less intelligent, and thus need the business explained to them?
    Could it be that if you are strolling along in the inner city, you have more time to read because the lifestyle there is a little slower than in the suburbs?

    If it's an ethnic area, as a white person from the suburbs, I take it as a friendly gesture on the part of the business owner to communicate to the more affluent people that they are friendly and sell the things I am looking for.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Super Amputee Cat
    I always noticed in Detroit that as soon as you crossed Eight Mile or other boundary street, there would be an instant barage of ugly, boxy, gnashing yellow signs on commercial properties. Most often they would say "Beer-Liquor-Wine" or some variation thereof, almost always with big-block red lettering. It seemed that you could almost draw the municipal boundary of Detroit by denoting where these ugly yellow signs abruptly ended.
    party stores!

    Around here, I mention party stores and people think I'm going shopping for cheap paper plates and rental chairs.....

    I grew up near Bennie's Roaring 20's Party Store on Hayes & 7 Mile Road on Detroit's east side. As I recall, the peeling mural on the side of the building and yellow/black sign on the front of the building let everyone know that Bennie had bread, milk, cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor, pop, candy, gum, food stamps okay, and much much more 4 sale.

    That place left a smell that is forever etched in my brain.......mmmmm, party store bread.......

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Do the business owners feel their clientele are less intelligent, and thus need the business explained to them?
    [not in ethnic context]
    On the bright side, they assume they can read!
    [/not in ethnic context]

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    ^-- I agree with Tranplanner. When y0 be cruzin dah 'division and y0 sees dat mad fab Hucks sign y0 be knowin dat y0 kin top up y0 tank, git ah super gulp oh joe, n git a case oh MGD n ah mad big bag oh dem cheetos fo dah crib.

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Maybe if you're in the city, with more traffic, you have more time to read long signs?? Whatever. My opinion: the more info the better. Had long arguments with my old boss who hated billboards...

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Maybe it's more of a "corporate" chain retail v. independent retail thing. The corporations have advertising dollars and an "image" while mom 'n' pop places need to rely on other methods. I really would not present it as an ethnic issue - that's misleading IMHO.
    That's what I think. Most people already know that Midas is a muffler place, and KFC sells chicken. Like someone else said they don't advertise any other way.

    I wonder if a small part of it though is lenience on the part of sign code enforcers. Its easier to demand more aesthetics from the corporate chain then from the small inner city business.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    I don't think its just limited to the inner city. If your ever driving around EBF you see signs like that for roadside hotdog places and such. I remember seeing a sign that also mentioned that they made there own hamburger meat. You could see the cows behind the place.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  17. #17
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    We have.....

    Where I work now, we have a requirement that only 30% of a sign can be used for "incidental" messages and that the occupational license name or DBA doing business as name must be at least 70% of the sign.....T
    That means the examples: TJ's Tire Shop and Dixon's Short Order would have to take up 70% of the sign area and be listed on the occupational license.

    This does seem to help....just don't tell Daniel Mandelker ....I'm not convinced its all that legal....

    Has anyone seen any recent case law on this topic?
    Skilled Adoxographer

  18. #18
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    There types of signs are also common in rural communities, usually lower income rural.

    I think a big part of it is that these signs are either hand painted or use off the shelf stick on letters/stencils, which don't come in large enough sizes to fill the entire sign.

    I also noticed in some of the photos that some signs are multipurpose. The Dixon's Short Order for example serves not only as an advertisement but also as a menu board, thus eliminating the expense of a second sign. These are very common in rural Southern communities at local roadside ice cream/chicken shack type places.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    There types of signs are also common in rural communities, usually lower income rural.
    Being an east cost big city liberal, I am the last person to ask about rural America but this is exactly what I was going to say. Except that, in my experience, I wouldn't say specifically low income rural. And certainly not African American, at least not only African American. You can find remnants of this sort of thing in the northern Va. exurbs. Little mom and dad shops now surrounded by sprawl...I mean low density suburban development. Certainly a bygone of a different age, and reminder of this to passing drivers who even bother to notice these places. It's refreshing to find commerce still taking place in this country in ways that Madison Avenue would not approve of.

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