Weed Whackers and Window Cleaner

Ideas from the Road

As part of my work, I visit a lot of small towns around the nation and teach them practical steps to a brighter future. I visited Roscommon County, Michigan and toured a few empty buildings.  On one corner, a major intersection into town, there was an empty building on each corner.  We talked about building possibility, working with the county and the town and hosting a tour of empty buildings like we did in Webster City, Iowa.

Next to one of the buildings that needed to be torn down was an old restaurant, still in operation.  There was an old 1950’s neon sign that lit up and was on the roof. It was huge and said ‘bar!’ The sign pointed down with an arrow to the building. Our view of the building was on the main thoroughfare side. It was full of weeds around the building and the windows were a filthy mess. I was appalled and asked the group ‘what in the world is that?’

They responded and told me it was a pretty good local bar that served food. The thing I couldn’t see was the entrance. It was on the back side of the building by the parking lot. No wonder our side was a mess. I bet people who worked there just drove to work each morning and didn’t pay any attention to the other side of the building. The owner was probably busy trying to find ways to keep the business open. Roscommon County is north of Detroit a couple of hours. It’s where the folks who worked at the car factories had their summer homes. Most of those folks no longer owned a home, tourism had dropped substantially and all the businesses still there were working on ways to bring folks back.

I suggested the committee get together in the early morning light, be a ninja team, bring their weed whackers and window cleaners, and take an hour to clean it up. Not a big deal, just show up and clean up.

Then they could drop off a nice letter to the owner. Not a letter that chewed him out! But a letter thanking him for keeping a long-standing business open and being a part of the community.  Business owners are busy people and sometimes things fall through the cracks.  No need to remind him of that, he knows.  What he doesn’t hear often enough is “thank you”.  

Do you have location in your neck of the woods that needs a Ninja team? Well get a few friends together and go make it look nice. You don’t need to ask for permission, you’re just cleaning. Make somebody’s day!

Deb Brown is owner of Building Possibility and cofounder of www.saveyour.town She’s the former Chamber of Commerce Director for Webster City, Iowa, where she still lives.