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Wes' World: In A Perfect World

August 14, 2012

If one stops and takes time to look up at the buildings of Valley City's downtown, you will notice that there are some architecturally significant structures that make up the "sky line" of our community. If you ever get a chance to look at a photo of downtown from the 1920s or 1930s you will see that much of these buildings remain and despite some poorly advised attempts at remodeling and "improving" them over the years, they're actually still there..for the most part. What I am saying is that "the bones are good".

How I wish some of our local business owners would consider a restoration of their buildings rather than throw more good money after bad to make their building something that it isn't and never will be...a new building. The old buildings were build with style, class and character that we do not (or cannot) attempt to achieve today. I propose that if Valley City's downtown looked today as it did in the attached photos...that we wouldn't be able to keep people out even if it was radioactive. Well, that is a little extreme but you get my point that a little restoration would go a long ways toward accomplishing a downtown that looks like a downtown should. Think Main Street USA at Disneyland! They made theirs to emulate exactly what we have here already and that is the most visited section of Disneyland...with good reason!

How about this from 1924: The Art of Decorating Show Windows and Displaying Merchandise

"When a stranger visits a city, town or village, his opinion if its enterprise, thrift and progressiveness will, in large part, be based upon the impression he received from the general appearance and characteristics of its business district.

If the streets are dirty and its business houses wear the appearance of slovenliness and neglect; if the store fronts are dingy and unattractive; if the display windows are dirty and present a jumbled and unsightly mass of miscellaneous merchandise; if both the streets and the stores suggest the absence of enterprise and progressiveness he cannot avoid the conviction that it would be an undesirable place in which to live or do business.

If he should be looking for a business location or seeking desirable investments a stranger would not think of locating in or investing his money in such a place; he would pass it by with contempt and seek for a more progressive locality.

If, on the other hand, he should find clean streets, freshly painted buildings, attractive store fronts and display windows filled with fresh, new goods tastefully arranged; if there were abundant evidences of modern ideas of merchandising and of the progressive enterprise that supports such ideas, he would feel that he had found the conditions that were essential to the safe investment of his money and would favorable consider any suitable opportunity that might be presented to him.

That an inquisitive stranger would be influenced by the general characteristics of the streets and stores of a town or city will be readily admitted, even by those who contribute their share of the non-progressive appearance of the locality in which they do business; but how many of them realize that the patrons of the stores of their respective towns or cities are influences by the same circumstances that affect strangers?

Those who have not looked at the matter in this light would do well to give it there serious thought and attention. They should put themselves in the place of their enlightened patrons and ask these questions: Would I be willing to buy the merchandise offered in my store when outsiders were offering goods that suit me better? Would I believe that a merchant who does business as I do, would be likely to have the things I wanted? Would the appearance of my store front and of my show windows create the impression that I understand the needs of my trade and that I was able to supply them?

If they would look at their business from the viewpoint of their patrons and ask these and many similar questions, it is more than probably that many merchants would immediately change their polities and methods.

A large number of merchants are losing business and are falling short of their reasonable expectations because they have not kept pace with the times. Their trade has outgrown them and much of it goes elsewhere to supply its needs, simply because it cannot be satisfied at home and because it sees that no effort is being made to appeal to its confidence by an exhibition of a knowledge of its requirements.

Nothing more faithfully portrays the character of the stores of a city that their show windows. From them the public receives much of its favorable or unfavorable opinion of the business characteristics of their owners, and through them it is possible to convey most valuable impressions to both the local and visiting public.

In no way could the merchants of a small city or town produce a better impression upon the buying public or secure a greater benefit as individuals than by joining hands in an effort to make their store fronts and windows as attractive as possible. It is along these lines that they can most effectively produce the impressions that will be conducive to the upbuilding of local interest, pride and confidence, which is the best possible offset of the allurements of outside competition."

There is much to do. Hiding neath the wrinkled tin and stucco hide some remarkable buildings that could easily be remarkable again with a little investment into their future, they'll last long into ours.

Valley City's Main Street 1920s. There hidden beneath wrinkled tin and bad remuddling it is still there today.
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