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Nominations now being accepted for Philly's 2014 Storefront Challenge

Little Baby's Ice Cream's bright, updated storefront

Adorn's updated storefront

Bicycle Revolutions' updated facade

Frankford Hall's facade

As executive director of The Merchants Fund (TMF), a local nonprofit that provides assistance to business owners facing financial hardship, Patricia Blakely is one of a handful of peer reviewers who sit on the judging committee of the Storefront Challenge, a retail design competition that recognizes storefront façade improvement projects throughout the city.

"Your façade is the single most important advertising expense you will ever [absorb] for your company," Blakley explains, echoing the advice she gives to business owners. "It [either] says, 'Come in,' or 'Go away.' A ratty, ugly front window with lots of signs pasted in it and no lighting just doesn't say, 'Come in and spend money with me.'"
And that's the Storefront Challenge in a nutshell. The competition, which happens once every two years, is a joint program of the Philadelphia Commerce Department and the Community Design Collaborative.

Although its larger purpose involves local economic development via the beautification of retail spaces, the event was initially launched as an effort to bring wider attention to the Commerce Department's Storefront Improvement Program (SIP), which provides cash grants to help business owners improve their facades.
Storefront Challenge winners are chosen via a nomination process, and the rules couldn't be simpler: Through Monday, September 15, anyone can nominate a renovated Philadelphia storefront that was completed between October 2012 and November 2014.

And as Blakely points out, thanks to the Challenge's seven separate categories (Creative Sign; Window Display, etc.), even simple, low-cost improvement projects have a chance to win.

"Literally, paint can be transformative," she explains. "[As] can a simple sign, [or] a great awning with some lighting."
The winning façades will be recognized during a special Design Philadelphia event at the Center for Architecture (1 - 3 p.m. Tuesday, October 14). Click here to nominate a business. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Patricia Blakely, The Merchants Fund

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