I was standing in line one morning waiting for my favorite egg sandwich at Ohno Cafe, where there is a list of choices scrawled on a chalkboard – it’s not even a pretty chalkboard and the handwriting is not so great either, but many restaurants in Portland, Maine use this method to let diners know what they’re serving.
This very common sight is what made the connection for me between between food, Horny Toad’s vibe and the need to relay fresh information. When I greet our customers, I like to think of myself as the host of a great party, somewhat like the host of a favorite restaurant – greet everyone and give them just enough info to find what they’re looking for on their own.
I often feel that relaying important information using standard signage doesn’t accomplish the whole task. The best signage gets our customers to ask better questions. That’s where our chalkboards come in. Immediately after my revelation at Ohno Cafe, I stopped at the hardware store and picked up some chalkboard paint.
We’ve since turned a few wall spaces in our shop into chalkboards. We’ve made our own sandwich boards out of chalkboard paint, leftover plywood and duct tape. We decided to move away from printed window posters and made window-sized chalkboards. We use clamps and cord to keep things in place. In a town where printed posters screaming “Up to 70% OFF!” are commonplace, our custom chalkboards really stand out. They’re super-easy to make, and they don’t really have to qualify as “art.”
I used to do the chalk signage myself – I have decent handwriting and I like doing it. But it’s often better for me to get out of the way. A team member took over for awhile and made our chalkboards much more appealing than I could (she had actually studied art). Then we got really lucky when she quietly offered to show us her skills.
Though we don’t have a trained artist to create chalk art for us anymore, we continue to communicate with our customers using chalk because it keeps things fresh. In our environment it’s unexpected and that’s important for us. Our customers appreciate the effort and creativity of chalk even when it’s not “amazing.”
Via Ponch Membreño – Freeport Horny Toad/Nau Store Manager