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    Task force studies how to tout Safety Harbor shops

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


    SAFETY HARBOR -- A task force will consider how to advertise businesses without creating clutter.

    Edna Kirkirt decided to name her store Our Little Secret because the home decor consignment shop is tucked a block off Main Street away from traffic.

    And after four years at its 171 Fifth Ave N location, Kirkirt's business remained a secret, she said, given the few customers who trickled in.

    "People just don't know we're here," Kirkirt said. "There's no way to let people know we're back here."

    So Kirkirt advertised her business by putting a sign in the grass near the corner of Fifth Avenue N and Main Street. Business picked up. But a city employee took down the sign and brought it to Kirkirt's shop because Safety Harbor has an ordinance that bans portable signs.

    City officials and merchants planned to form a task force to find other ways for downtown merchants to advertise their businesses.

    "It's not a huge issue, but it's an ongoing situation," said Ron Pianta, planning director for Safety Harbor, who also will be the staff liaison to the task force. "Because some of the merchants want some visibility, it is something that crops up."

    Linda Marshall, economic development officer for the Safety Harbor Chamber of Chamber of Commerce, said, "I think it will be really useful for both the city staff and some of the business owners to sit down and talk about these things.

    "A lot of business owners don't know the whole story and aren't sure how the ordinance is written. Everyone's priority is to promote downtown, and this is a way of achieving that, hopefully."

    In Dunedin, signs are not allowed in commercial areas other than the city's designated redevelopment area or when a business is holding a grand opening. Even then, the signs are limited to the business' property.

    "We've seen some owners who have documented the difference in their success when they're able to put signs on the streets versus those who haven't been able to do it," said Safety Harbor Commissioner Neil Brickfield. "I don't think we should turn our streets into a flea market atmosphere, but I think there can be a happy medium."

    Sherrie Pennington, owner of Crimson Moon Books and More in Safety Harbor, said she has not needed to use sidewalk signs to advertise her Main Street shop. But she said that discussing the issue is a good move.

    "My ideals would be for it to be tastefully done," she said. "I think there are some things that can be eye catching and appealing if the community has an open dialogue about what's good for Safety Harbor merchants and police ourselves."

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