An Interview with the Society for Commercial Archeology

Sea Shell Motel Sign
Sea Shell Motel Sign, Wildwood, New Jersey

A few days ago we posted my interview with Danielle Kelly from The Neon Museum in Las Vegas. During the interview she mentioned that I must reach out to the Society for Commercial Archeology. She said if you love the older, lesser know signs and buildings of America’s roadsides and are interested in helping preserve them, those are the guys to talk to. So I did just that and they didn’t disappoint.

When I spoke to Ralph Wilcox, the Society for Commercial Archeology’s secretary, I envisioned this Indiana Jones-esque group of individuals combing through dilapidated commercial buildings in search of relics from the past. OK, so I over romanticized a little bit, but in truth the SCA is the largest national organization devoted to the buildings, artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the 20th-century commercial landscape. (more…)

Updated: Interview With Bryan McCormick of Vegas Vernacular

Galaxy Building

Update: 4/22/2013: While I was attending the 2013 International Sign Association’s Sign Expo in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of sitting down with Bryan over lunch to discuss the latest happenings with the Vegas Vernacular. It had been about 6 months since our first interview and I wanted to get an update on the organization, what they are currently working on and what’s next……oh and to get my print of the Desert Moon Motel I ordered!

Although I loved meeting Bryan at the art exhibit back in September of 2012, this time around was even better. We went to an incredible little place to eat, called EAT, in old downtown and just talked signage. It was the first time I had ever just walked around that area and it really gave me an appreciation for what Bryan and his team are trying to document. Once you get away from the Strip, you realize that a whole other world exists. Just walking and driving down Freemont Street – away from the tourist traps – you quickly realize what Vegas was truly about. It’s not about the massive Casinos. It’s about the hundreds of family owned motels and businesses that lined the streets. Each one with a unique story. Each one on the verge of disappearing.

Although they have accumulated around 50,000 images, there is still more to be done. Much of their current projects are based on immediate necessity. Not only are the smaller motels and building being closed down, they are being torn down. Bryan said that just knowing what properties are next is difficult. Then trying to get in to photograph them can be an even bigger challenge.

But, aside from the constant need to document the signs, Bryan and his team are right in the middle of creating a platform to catalog and display the images. The best part of the platform, they want to make it available to other organizations, in other cities, to allow them to accomplish the same goal as the Vegas Vernacular. A national platform for all to use as inspiration and education. They have also spent some time trying to track down the artists, like “King” Richard Harris, who actually created the hand painted signage. Their personal stories are as much a part of the dialogue as the signs they created!

For the most part, things continue at breakneck speed for the Vegas Vernacular and the ever changing landscape of Las Vegas sure keeps Bryan on his toes. Let’s just hope he is quick enough to document it before it’s gone! (more…)

Before You Donate, Ask These 5 Questions

Before You Donate

Retailers certainly thrive during the holiday season, but they aren’t the only ones taking consumers’ cash. Charitable organizations collect a large portion of their annual revenue in December. Charity Navigator reports that over 30% of annual giving via Network for Good’s donation processing system occurs during the last month of the year. And, the average American gives 4.7% of his or her income to charities every year. (more…)

A Little Thank You Can Go A Long Way


Thank You


Your mother always taught you to say “Thank you” when someone did something nice, and she made you write countless notes for every birthday, Christmas and graduation gift.

Even though you grumbled about spending your Saturday morning writing out card after card until your hand cramped, you knew Mom was right. When someone gives you something, it’s polite (and socially expected) to acknowledge their kindness with a thank you.


5 Ways to Stay Healthy While Starting a Business


Start a Business & Stay Healthy

As any new entrepreneur will tell you, starting and running a business takes a lot of time. You’ll spend 50-60 hours per week getting your business off the ground and running it in those first days. You may find that healthy habits fall by the wayside and that your stress level increases tremendously, all of which negatively impacts your health. Which negatively impacts your ability to run your business (see a vicious cycle here?) Here are five ways to stay healthy while in the midst of starting your business.


Harper Grey: Donation Dilemmas


The Savvy Shopper - Harper Grey

I know that charitable organizations rely on donations from people like me to support the people they help. And I like to think I do my share: my husband and I donate annually to the children’s hospital and our local NPR station. Last year we gave everyone goats for Christmas (no, not REAL goats. Virtual goats from Oxfam. Our relatives just got cards saying they got a goat, but that it was currently residing in a third world country. Everyone was thrilled).


5 Tips For Putting On A Race



For most of the country, summer is in full swing and that means getting out and enjoying the park, the pool, or the beach (yes, I know it is sweltering right now in some parts, but hey, it won’t last forever). No matter the temperature, summer is when people want to be out of their houses and for a non-profit, it is a great time to take advantage.


Success Stories: Operation61



As a continuation of our Success Stories series, I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Brad and Monnica Manuel, co-founders of Operation61, a non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking to talk about their organization and their thoughts on building a successful non-profit.

When did you first become aware of human trafficking?

Monnica: We had heard little pieces here and there. One trigger was the movie, “Taken,” which made us start asking more questions, doing more research. We originally had the mindset that it was a third world country issue. There are 27 million slaves worldwide (that includes sex slaves and labor slaves). Then we began to break it down to what’s happening here domestically. Somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States every year. We wondered if it was happening in Utah. We found out that there are organizations that are assisting victims right here in our own backyard.


Increase Charitable Donations: Make it Personal



Times have been tough for charitable organizations. During the recession, many found themselves serving an even greater clientele with far fewer available resources. People who have lost jobs don’t have money to give. And those who haven’t lost jobs are clinging to their cash a bit tighter. Organizations must work harder to bring in charitable donations, while keeping marketing costs low.