Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's A Sign That A Fix Is Needed

First of all, I want to make it clear that I am not fond of the new sign bylaw.  Back on May 17th I wrote of the proliferation of signs here in town that ran contrary to the new bylaw, but I didn't write about them to complain.  I wrote about the signs because after those massive bylaw restrictions that were put into place a couple of years ago in order to make our community "neater, and cleaner", more Steppford-like, and now no one was enforcing the bylaws.

Same old story.  A whole lot of bluster, venting, loud voices, and then, in the end, a gavel falls and new laws are written that are not only ludicrous, and extremely restrictive, but difficult to enforce, if not impossible to enforce.

So, after a couple of years of having their businesses adversely affected by the bylaw there has been a "Sign Revolution" in which the businesses in town have essentially said through their actions, "Enough is enough, and we're not going to take it any more!".

In front of most shops in town there are non-town approved signs.  Some professional looking, and a wonderful advertising addition to the towns "ambiance".  Others are less thought out.

The original bylaw designated that some signs in town were temporary, and had to be just that, temporary.  A permanent sign would be one permanently mounted on a post, or building.  A temporary sign was something that had to be removed after 14 days, and the business owner could only have these temporary signs three times over the course of the year.

Excessively restrictive.  Bad for business, and, I believe that as currently written, anti-business.  Maybe not intentionally, but that is how it has panned out.

OK, there are tacky poster board, or wood signs, badly spelt with whatever paint was found on the garage shelf, or with a Magic Marker®, and those signs should be restricted.  Actually, eliminated, but there are other temporary signs like the one in front of Sturbridge Coffee that is not only neat, attractive, and maintained, it also lacks any misspelled words.  Sounds silly, but that is important.  It shows the signs author actually cares about appearances.

Temporary signs are the life blood of a business.  They announce the menu of a restaurant, what is on sale, or for sale in a particular store, and what is new, or special at a particular business.  These are important things for a business.

Life and death of a business things.

Businesses need signs, and we need non tacky, neat, and informative signs, and if the two can live together, they should.  They should live together for a whole lot longer than six weeks a year.  Cripes, the summer tourist season is longer than that.  Businesses need to advertise more than just 6 weeks each year with a store sign.  If done right, they should be able to do it at anytime.  What is the intention of  a two week restriction, and what does it accomplish?

And, another thing:  We are a tourist town.  Businesses rely on the transient crowd, and signs talk to them.  Flags with the the word "OPEN" are placed outside of a business to attract the local, and the "traveling through" crowd.  Our brains are programed to look for them.  If we don't see them, we assume the business is closed.  Not good.

"OPEN" flag/signs cannot be restricted at all.  Simple.

The Design Review Committee has been revising the bylaws since early 2009, and on July 20th there will be a meeting to update the town on the work of the committee as to those revisions.

I really hope that the committee makes significant changes that does not hinder a business as much as they do today, but will clamp down on the tacky, misspelt signs.  In fact, I think it a should be part of the revised bylaw to enforce the bylaw by giving a dope slap to any business owner that misspells "furniture".

You can find him at the Marketplace at the Falls.


  1. i've been seeing that "furnature" sign and wondering if the misspelling could be intentional. perhaps their goods are rustic and therefore "natural"?

  2. I wonder how the bad spelling helps the business.


Anonymous comments not accepted, and will be rejected. Please use your full name. Choose "Name / URL" and enter your name, and your name ONLY. Leave "URL" blank.