"Just as people do, your business makes a first impression," Oliver said. "You want that impression to be positive and inviting to prospective clients. No matter what kind of business you're in, your credibility will benefit from a clean, fresh, well-lit appearance.
"If the exterior of the building or a display looks faded, run down or out of date, it signals a lack of care," Oliver said. "If you don't care about how your own business looks, how will a customer trust you with their business?"
Changing and updating a façade helps keep businesses visible and interesting, she said.
A study by Main Street West Virginia concluded that 70 percent of business owners reported an increase in sales after making façade improvements, said Marsha Humphrey, state coordinator of the revitalization program. The study also indicated 90 percent of participants in a façade improvement program were pleased with the renovations and got favorable comments from customers, Humphrey said.
Pat Burchett, owner of Celebrations Etc., took down an old cloth awning last summer and put up a new tile one at the business's D Street location. While she hasn't noticed any specific increase in her business, she has noticed a difference in the city around here.
"It looks a lot cleaner because it looks like everyone is doing something," Burchett said.
The façade improvement program is only part of what's happening to South Charleston's business community. City leaders say the city is booming with business openings. Anderson and Mullens count 10 businesses that have opened within the city limits during the past few weeks. That's partly because the businesses are looking better because the façade improvement program, Anderson said.
The new businesses range from an insurance office and a law office to a dancewear store, to restaurants and a barbershop.
"We're so thrilled about South Charleston," Anderson said. "We're so diversified. We got something for everybody."
Besides the small businesses, the Spanish automotive manufacturer Gestamp recently located into the stamping plant in South Charleston. Company officials have said they intend to hire 300 to 400 people immediately with the potential for more in the future. The city offered tax incentives to Gestamp as a way of competing with other cities that were in the running to attract the manufacturer.
Smith Fasteners, of Charleston, recently purchased land in the South Charleston Industrial Park. Mullen said the company planned to build and expand its business in the city. Smith Fasteners President Jim Smith told the Gazette in August the company had no immediate plans to build there.
Anderson and Mullens say there are plenty of ways the city aims at being business friendly. For one, the city offers every new business a break on its B&O taxes for the first three years. New businesses pay only 25 percent of the tax the first year, half the second year and pay 75 percent the third year.
Cathy Nelson, owner of the Happy Days Café on D Street, said when she bought her business nearly three years ago, she was determined to be in South Charleston. The city has special events frequently that help to bring in crowds to the eatery, she said.
"It's a wonderful place to have a business," Nelson said.
Mullens said the city's quick response to the problems and concerns of business owners is another way the city is business friendly.
"It's never one thing, why they pick us," Mullens said. "One is location -- that's undersold. You can get on the interstate in South Charleston and you can be anywhere -- whether it's shopping or just to go see your aunt, whatever it may be. You can go anywhere."