Letter to the Editor: 

I spent more than 30 years in the sign industry working for two of the largest and most reputable companies in the country. I’ve worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies in more than 18 countries.

I believe I have acquired more than enough expertise to say that Eagle River has a huge identity problem. 

Cities generally have sign codes. The purpose of codes is not to restrict business, but to support it. One clause almost every sign code has refers to abandoned signs. 

One example might be the Vilas Village Mall, with its rotting and rusting sign. 

As you probably know, there is no Village Mall. The space is occupied by Pick ’n Save and Tractor Supply Co. 

It’s a shame that these businesses are striving to provide a service to this community and have their signs beneath such an eyesore. 

Show me one person in the world who thinks the Village Mall sign is some sort of landmark and I’ll introduce you to its owners. 

It’s an oozing scab on the landscape of the city and its cancerous effect must be spreading as the business to the north has a sign that came down a few years ago, and rather than repair it and put it back up, they’ve strapped it to the poles.

I shouldn’t be so critical. After all, they put some flowers and whirligig things around it. Hey, if you can’t fix your sign, you should at least draw attention to it, right?

Here’s the bottom line. If you think a good image for your business is too expensive, your business probably doesn’t deserve it. The perception of the public is everything.

The city fathers have the power to do something about these monstrosities. In my estimation, they are failing this city. A poor sign is a sign of poor business. Poor businesses don’t support growth. 

When you have signs that are literally falling apart and the city does nothing about it, you have civic leaders who are either blind or simply don’t care. Do you want your city to grow? Complacency will kill that ambition.

Perhaps when the last of Eagle River’s retailers shuts off their lights and locks their doors for the last time, the city fathers will scratch their heads and contemplate why so few people shop Eagle River. Maybe they’ll consider the Vilas Village Mall sign for the city’s tombstone. 

All the blame shouldn’t be put on a handful of retailers who have no concern for image. There is a shortage of good sign companies north of Appleton. 

Believe it or not, there are things to consider when designing a sign such as viewing distance, speed of traffic, contrast, font type and size — forget the script already — and materials. 

I don’t think it has caught on with sign companies in the area that UV-resistant inks and colors have been around for decades. Fading billboards with cheaply printed fabric sagging across rotting plywood, why would any advertiser spend money every month on a billboard that literally can’t be read? 

I know this isn’t Milwaukee, Madison or even Appleton and I’m thankful for that, but Eagle River doesn’t have to look like it’s in the early stages of death and decay. 

A good sign not only serves its business, it serves the image of the community. 

David Heuss

Phelps