I've conceived this new Lost City feature, "Perfect Storefront," as a kind of companion to my ongoing "A Good Sign" feature—as a way to show appreciation for everyday Gothamite street art, coming in the form of conscious, sub-conscious or unconscious mercantile design.
What makes a perfect storefront? Well, a lot of things. Originality, for one. That doesn't mean the store owner has to be self-consciously bizarre or artful, just that they show a little character and individuality. One should be able to tell that the store is owned by a person or a family, not a corporation or chain.
The facade should contribute to the palate of the streetscape, both acting in harmony with the immediate surroundings and providing something special to delight the eye as well. The shop need not be old, but age has it's advantages. Through the passing of years, the store slowly but surely melds with the block. It becomes an organic element. Also, the passage of time usually contributes various additions to the original facade, in the form of signs, stickers, new paint jobs, paneling. Things also go missing, too, such as letters on the sign. This all adds up to an appealingly lived-in feel, not to mention an intriguing, somewhat ineffable impression of living urban history. Great storefronts are almost always accidents of time, putting themselves together in haphazard style with the flipping calendar.
Bold or fanciful letter fonts, interesting color schemes, hand-painted signs, quirky entrances, attractive window displays, fantastic neon and anything eccentric all do their part, of course. And it doesn't hurt for the store to be situated in a beautiful building to begin with.
Bad storefronts? Anonymous, crap, cloth awnings; garish, cookie-cutter signage; chain-store insignia; those plastic "grand opening" flags; ugly Home Depot metal doors; those big red signs that thank you for your patronage; eye-stingingly wrong colors; It-Came-From-Outer-Space, completely out of place, overall designs—all steps in the wrong direction.
There's a lot that's wonderful about the Klenosky Paint store on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. The red facade adds a dash of color to the street, while the blue lettering of the sign ties the storefront in with the building's aluminum siding. The front entrance is set in a bit, which adds a bit of dimension to the front, as does the Moore Paints sign hanging perpendicularly from the storefront. The gentle repetition of "paint" knits the whole together. The hand-painted Paint Fair emblems lends a homey feel, and the backward "K" a touching kookiness.
Yes, I'm sure I've overthought this. But, sue me. This is the kind of thing I think about.