That empty storefront a few doors down is making your entire block look shabby. Sometimes vacant properties are owned by the government, sometimes by a landlord who can’t seem to rent or sell the space. Either way, that blank facade is lowering the value of your store’s property and could even be subtly driving away customers!
Assuming you are not in a position to open a new business and take over the storefront for yourself, here are some suggestions for dealing with a vacant property on your block.
1. Rent the Window
Consider renting the store window on a temporary basis. You can use the additional visual real estate to extend your amazing window display and garner more attention for your store.
For example, if the vacant storefront is across the street from your store, and it’s Halloween, put up some creepy lettering that says, “Look behind you” to direct eyes back to your own store. This can really take your window display to the next level, since people don’t expect to see a store window extended across stores or across streets!
2. Start a Committee
As a small business owner, you’re a valuable member of the community. Make sure your voice is heard by starting a beautification committee for the block, street, or neighborhood. By joining forces with other business owners and local residents, you’re proving that you care about the community where you do business, and making business better for yourself at the same time.
Consider the Eagle Street Rising Beautification Committee’s success. Volunteers put together a revitalization project that aimed to beautify the street and reinvigorate its underperforming businesses. If you have several flagging businesses, or empty storefronts on your street, this project may well be worth the effort.
3. Propose a Pop-up
Set up a temporary art gallery, crafts fair, retail store, holiday boutique, or cafe in that old, dirty, empty storefront. It could last throughout a busy shopping season or just for one day. Work with a popular local Etsy seller, or a local animal shelter to come up with fun “one week only” pop up ideas. They’ll spread the word, and the special event will draw more traffic into town. This plan would require collaboration from the building’s owner, but it could potentially generate revenue, help them sell or lease their building, and foster a stronger community in the area. If the landlord gives you resistance, consider offering to a pay a small fee- and remind them that your fee will lesson whatever they’re paying that month to have a totally vacant storefront.
4. Create a Coworking Space
The work to create a permanent home for a coworking community can be overwhelming. Will you have enough revenue to cover rent and other expenses? Will local business owners buy in to the idea?
If you can temporarily rent out a storefront that would otherwise be empty, it could be a win-win situation. The owner of the storefront gets a little money to defray the cost of owning a vacant property, and you have the opportunity to build momentum with your coworking community before taking the larger step of finding a permanent location.
If you know the landlords, contact them to ask if you can decorate their vacant storefront. Some Christmas lights and bright colors during the holiday season, for example, would spruce up the block without advertising for any other specific business. Your investment of a few hours to make the store a little more interesting will make your block look more welcoming as a whole!
You could even work with local artists to display some of their work there! Anything will look better than empty windows, and the landlords should be on board with a program that makes their building look more attractive to buyers.
Here in NYC (where Funding Gates is based)..there is a cool company, Made in LES, doing doing just this, for the Lower East Side neighborhood. They are working to transform underused storefronts to create new ways to work, shop, play and collaborate. Check out their projects for great ideas and inspiration.