By Cindy McCartney, Owner, Diva Designer Consignment (File photo)
To the editor:
I agree with Jody Manor’s thoughtful and accurate letter to the editor regarding the sudden impetus to regulate the use of A-frame signs on Old Town streets (“Reverse enforcement of A-frame sign regulations,” November 3).
The city administrators’ and legislators’ tone-deafness to the needs of small, independent businesses in Alexandria becomes painfully apparent when dealing with topics like this. I have owned a business in the city for 11 years, and, with few exceptions, don’t feel that that the positive impact the boutiques and restaurants lining our streets have on the ambiance of Alexandria has been adequately acknowledged and appreciated by city officials and organizations.
After all, along with the historical pedigree of the city, the variety and uniqueness of these businesses are a huge part of what drives Alexandria’s regular inclusion in the “top 100 cities” or “most livable cities” lists.
Sadly, on a recent drive up King Street, I counted 18 empty storefronts in Old Town alone. That is not the example of a healthy and thriving city business center, but rather of a very challenging business atmosphere. I would think that this would be of concern to city officials — surely they must be aware that the situation needs to be addressed?
I often wonder what benefits businesses here receive from the taxes and licensing fees we pay each year. We’ve never even been able to get a trashcan near my store on South Pitt Street. The city is not maintained to the level it should be, and a business improvement district is not the answer. We already pay a premium.
Talking to business owners individually might be a way for officials to get some insights about our challenges. Forget the bureaucratic task forces and the ridiculously expensive independent consultants frequently brought in. Split up city councilors, administrators and staff and visit on a one-to-one basis the owners who run the businesses that help to make our city unique.
Sole proprietors cannot always attend committee and task force meetings, and those meetings have never been particularly productive, in my experience. Officials actually need to look at our stores, get out in the field and listen to our concerns. This would benefit everyone.
One thing they would definitely discover would be that the A-frame signs are a powerful way for our businesses to let customers know where we are, what our offerings are, and what specials we have on any given day. They give the city personality as well as providing a service.
People comment on a daily basis how important the sign we have at the corner of King and Pitt streets was in getting them to my store, which is on a side street. We also like to put out an A-frame by the store with information on sales, etc.
Why is it that any proposals coming from city council regarding businesses either involve more regulation, more taxes or imposing more fees?
The issue of sign safety, as Manor says, is a non-starter. The signs are the least dangerous things on the side- walks, and as he mentioned, I have had people come in to my store after doing a face- plant on one of the uneven or missing bricks, or roots coming up and taking over the walking spaces. In fact, both my husband and I have had the misfortune of falling on the bricks.
Have all the real problems and challenges of Alexandria been successfully resolved? Why else attack something that actually promotes business and costs Alexandria nothing?