Like many tire dealers, Philip ``Flip'' Smith took a long, hard look at the neighborhood surrounding his Van Nuys, Calif., location and decided he'd had enough. The once-prosperous area had become neither safe nor attractive for customers and therefore was no longer a good location for a retail tire business. So perhaps the time had come to get out.
Up and down Sepulveda Boulevard, where Mr. Smith had owned and operated Flip's Tire Center for more than two decades, were the ugly and unmistakable signs of urban decay.
Trash and garbage littered the sidewalks and streets. Prostitutes and drug dealers operated openly as homeless people huddled in the doorways of buildings spray painted with gang warnings and vulgar graffiti.
Yet Mr. Smith didn't relocate the business to a more attractive neighborhood. Instead, he set about doing what few business owners had attempted-restoring his rundown neighborhood to respectability.
Investing thousands of dollars and countless hours of time, he organized 250 fellow business owners into the Sepulveda Boulevard Business Watch, which since has become a model plan for city business districts seeking to take back their streets.
Working as a group, Mr. Smith and his fellow business owners lobbied city officials to chase out the criminals and went to work restoring the appearance of their Sepulveda Boulevard neighborhood.
They got the telephone company to shut off incoming calls at pay phones, forcing drug dealers to ply their trade elsewhere.
They swept up the litter and broken glass, hauled away the garbage and trash, planted flowers, cut the grass and painted over the graffiti, making Sepulveda Boulevard once again attractive to customers and suitable for legitimate businesses.
Would a similar approach work in reclaiming decayed business areas elsewhere? We think so. And we encourage dealers to try it before giving up on their troubled neighborhoods without a fight. Once they're united, business owners often can accomplish miracles!