Our Towns

Clings Advertise Availability of Salem’s Storefronts

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SALEM, Ohio – As business owners and economic development agencies in downtown Salem see it, the new vinyl window clings that will be in vacant storefronts are far better than the usual “For Sale or Lease” signs.

The displays put up Monday morning feature colorful displays of hypothetical stores and boutiques that could occupy the buildings and “Your Business Name Here.” A sporting goods store and a chic clothing store were the focus of the first two clings installed. On the doors are price tag-shaped signs with a phone number and the logos of the groups involved in the project: the Columbiana County Port Authority, the Downtown Salem Partnership and the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center.

“Prospective business owners or investors looking to buy properties in downtown Salem, without the assistance of a realtor, had no way of going about buying or leasing,” said William Dawes, co-chairman of the downtown partnership. “The idea was to make it known and to tug on the entrepreneurial minds of those walking by.”

Clings were installed in the first two storefronts, 535 and 536 E. State St. Over the five months left in 2016, as many as 18 clings will be put up in a dozen buildings throughout downtown. A $9,000 award from the port authority funded the signs, designed by Kristina Danklef at Sourballpython Studios in downtown Salem.

“Seeing is the reality. Seeing a storefront with these clings gives you a sense of the businesses in the area. We’re hoping to promote that effect throughout the community,” said port authority Executive Director Penny Traina at the unveiling. “Downtown is always the heart of any community, so we’d like to draw people back to home.”

Beyond promoting the spaces that entrepreneurs and investors could occupy, the project is a beautification effort for the downtown. When pedestrians and drivers come through downtown, several officials noted at the unveiling, they’ll see colorful signs instead of empty buildings.

“When you have a vacant building, at least you’re not looking at dirty windows and the like that goes along a bad downtown,” said Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck. “This will enhance the appearance and when it becomes occupied, more people will come down and maybe get into other buildings.”

Said Mike Mancuso, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, there were 28 vacant buildings in the district that weren’t on the market last year. The downtown has 119 buildings.

“You can’t fill buildings that aren’t on the market,” he said. “Part of this was encouraging owners to get them up to speed and onto the market.”

Most buildings owners have gladly joined the program, Dawes and Mancuso reported, although some have declined to put the clings in their windows. Dawes, who works downtown as a mortgage loan officer at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp., said all clings are being provided and installed at no charge to owners.

For downtown business owners, the window clings are a positive step for a district that has had its share of negative press over the past few years, highlighted by the collapse of the former TanFastic building that required two adjacent buildings to be razed as well.

“It’s not just to make the windows look better. It’s also to change the dialogue around the vacancies and getting people to think about what they can do to get them occupied,” said Ben Ratner, owner of Libs Café.

For his coffee shop, seeing more businesses around him – his store is a half block from the two vacant stores the window clings where the clings were hung – would certainly help, Ratner said with no uncertainty. And with those new tenants, the possibility for more events such as fairs and concerts would increase, further benefiting his shop.

“It’s a larger market for my business to capitalize on. We can all band together with community events and sales to make downtown vibrant again,” he said. “Having the vacancies occupied, at Libs, would take us to the next level.”

Ratner also serves as co-chairman of the Downtown Salem Partnership, a group of downtown stakeholders begun just over a year ago. In that short time, he said, the group has grown and is already making progress in improving the district.

“The window project is a microcosm of the progress downtown,” Ratner said. “It’s something that we can see, but behind the doors there’s a lot of cooperation and partnerships. We’re all trying to come together to figure the best course of action to get downtown thriving again.”

Pictured: Downtown Salem Partnership co-chairman William Dawes, Sustainable Opportunity Development Center director Mike Mancuso, Columbiana County Port Authority director Penny Traina, Columbiana County commissioner Mike Halleck and Salem Mayor John Berlin unveiled the window cling advertising campaign Monday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.