As a person who thoroughly enjoys an architectural salvage shop or antique store, there are times I become more interested in shopping someone’s storage than the property I’m supposed to be buying.
We’ve all now admitted we have these vacant spaces hiding in plain sight above our main streets. The next issue is that they aren’t so vacant. Really great people with excellent intentions but buildings in their places and they love their place so much they collect interesting and significant things to one day find a use for. From old town photos, lights, signs, equipment, and tools, I’ve seen it all hiding in storage. The kinds of pieces that are unique to my town and place which fill me with pride.
These things may spark joy for property owners still but hoarding sentiment won’t get it out into the world for others to help strengthen your place. It’s time for a downtown sale. If homeowners can have garage sales and team up across neighborhoods, it’s time Main Street did the same. I’m calling it a Civic Salvage event.
Make it as big or little as you want. One day only or a week long. Maybe even every weekend for a month. Start by talking to your property owners with stuff and see if they want to make some money by lightening their load.
- Sidewalk salvage: have things down on Main Street so the community knows what’s going on and can walk and shop.
- Occupancy limits are your best friend. Not only are they normal for safety right now but they will also help property owners who feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to price items or have strangers in their space. By limiting the number of people in at once, it can be conversational and pricing can be discussed versus pre-labeled.
- Kick up occupancy by having a reservation system. Daily times reservations keep people from waiting in lines and makes it easy to enforce time limits so you have serious buyers versus endless browsers. Eventbrite and other platforms have these options.
- Volunteer power. Local board members of your downtown organizations will surely donate their time to help owners sell belongings in the pursuit of progress. Having volunteers man the sidewalk salvage and assist owners will make it manageable.
- More is more. The more properties to participate in a given area the better. Same as neighborhood garage sales. They will do better together so put on the positive peer pressure.
- Paperwork matters. If it isn’t safe or easy to access items in an upper, ask youth service groups to help move it. If you want to play it safe having people across your private warehouse space, talk to the city and a local attorney who volunteers for one of your boards about having a waiver people sign if they go up.
- Speaking of health and safety, remember these spaces don’t generally have heat or air running so scheduling in July and August heat would be ill-advised.
Does your place have something like this?