Respect Your Space, even when it isn't Yours.

Gottwals_BooksIt’s amazing how little some store owners seem to own the space they lease.  It’s a common problem in America, isn’t it?  We don’t value anything unless we own it, and, even then, we don’t seem to care that much.  With our first location, I didn’t think about it that much.  We have had it pretty good; the lawn stays pretty and the things that aren’t pretty don’t cause trouble.  But, I do like to take a look around every once in a while because I know that the owner of the place would appreciate it.  I think if I owned a building that I could take some comfort in the fact that my tenants respected me enough to check it out every once in a while.
Doing this one Saturday brought me up to the old cell phone store.  It’s not that big of a shopping center, but I had to get close to notice that all of the glass in the front door hand been broken.  Shattered bits were everywhere.  There had not been any product in there for a while, but there were still some small fixtures, lights, etc. that I was worried about.  I went back to my store, called the owner, and told him that I would check the place out.  I went back, looked it over, and everything was good.  I called him, gave him the news, and he seemed happy (even though he was soon to spend good money on a pane of glass to replace the door).
This is only one aspect of respecting your store.  Respecting also means protecting.  The broken door incident was part of my way of protecting the shopping center, but I’ve done the same thing in Byron.  The new center is much bigger than our first, and it is more known and respected.  On average, 50,000 cars drive into the center each month.  There are many things that keep the parking lot and sidewalks safe, including yield and stop signs as well as notices that no one is to bike, skateboard, or rollerblade on the premises.  As a school teacher by trade, I have a certain way of getting young people to do what I say.  I’m very confident in their presence, and I demand respect.
A few days before we were set to open the Byron store, I noticed a guy come flying past my front windows, gliding on his skateboard through the breezeway.  I quickly took care of the problem by walking outside, following him around a little bit, and then telling him that there is to be no skating on the property.  I gave him the complementary speech about how, if he were to get hurt, the shopping center would be forced to pay for his bills.  He wasn’t a happy fellow after that.  He was an older teen, probably 17-18, and he had a fowl mouth.  As soon as I turned to walk back toward my store, I heard him say, “This is #@&*% ridiculous!”
As bold as I am, I turned around and said, “Excuse me?”
He hushed up very quickly.  I proceeded to tell him that cursing is a sign of anger and that he had no need to be upset with me.  He explained that he wasn’t mad at me, he was just frustrated that he came all the way out to the center and wouldn’t be allowed to skate.
My thought: “Tough luck, champ.”
Incidents like this are fairly common for any business owner.  They are necessary because you must learn to really be in charge of where you are.  Your store has a reputation to uphold.  You want it to be known for its sufficient parking and lack of bums and/or hooligans.  It’s just another part of being the type of owner who is in the business for the sake of good business.  If you want the vibe of “anything goes,” be prepared to turn folks off.  Be tough, be firm, and take pride in your space.

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