NAPLES — “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman?”
This is the peculiar question probably stumbling across motorists’ and pedestrians’ minds as they approach the congested northeast corner of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads.
Superman in question is 21-year-old Albert Made.
Instead of saving damsels in distress, Made is a sign holder. This is the latest business trend to attract customers.
Made’s mission is to promote the Halloween mega store, Halloween Express.
The North Naples man holds a black sign with orange block letters a couple of days a week. As for dressing up in costume with 90-degree temperatures, Made said he doesn’t mind the heat. After all, the heat is no match for Superman.
“We use anything to catch children’s eyes,” said Healther Koziatek, 35, who is from Atlanta and manages Halloween Express. “Nothing scary.”
When asked the impact of the sign holder’s costumes, Koziatek responded: “Customers often come in because they’ve seen super heroes or, my favorite, Tootsie Pops.”
Koziatek said she definitely can tell a difference in profits when there are sign holders outside and when there aren’t.
A North Naples hair salon, hidden off U.S. 41, also uses walking signs to draw attention. Tropical Hair, off of 110th Avenue North, uses a sandwich board, which was a popular method during the Great Depression, to advertise $6.99 haircuts.
Martha Gonzalez, a resident of Naples Park and owner of Tropical Hair, said human road signs have helped her business. She said a human sign increases profits but also attracts customers who are new to the area.
“I advertise about twice a week during the summer. I see at least 20 new customers a week who are new to the area. Most of the time they stay,” Gonzalez said.
A permit isn’t required for human directionals if they aren’t endangering motorists or pedestrians. However, there are rules that businesses must follow.
Sherry Patterson, a sign specialist for Collier County government, said a person may stand on the sidewalk holding a sign and-or be dressed in a costume provided he or she isn’t obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
If the person is standing in the median, they will be asked to move to the sidewalk.
And, if the person poses a public health safety or welfare risk in any way, they may be asked to cease-and-desist.
The sign holders generally are unemployed people looking for work.
In these tough times, sign holders are proof people will do whatever it takes to make ends meet.
“We’re helping them and they’re helping us,” Gonzalez said.
Human directionals are often paid minimum wage.
Made said he works a couple days a week and makes $8 an hour.
Then again, money shouldn’t matter, he is Superman.