On Wednesday, Deana Drews got an unexpected visit from a city of Minneapolis inspector.
This isn't unusual. Drews has been running a salon—What the Hair Is Going on with Deana?!?!—out of her home since 2007. It’s totally above board, and she has to pass routine inspections by both the city and state to stay in business.
In this case,though, her salon wasn’t the inpector's issue. It was her signs.
Drews’ house is set back pretty far from the sidewalk, so she keeps a little cloth sign with her house number and “WHAT THE HAIR” at the front of her lawn, and another small one on the front of her house telling clients the salon is out back.
Drews says the inspector told her one of her neighbors had called to complain, calling the sign “offensive.”
“Are you kidding me?” she asked.
He wasn’t, and city code is kind of on the neighbor's side: Both the lawn sign and the “WHAT THE HAIR” stencils on her front steps violate Minneapolis ordinances. The rules for "home occupation requirements" allow for "one non-illuminated, flat wall... sign not to exceed one square foot in area."
Drews has already been fined once ($150) for tying a small flag displaying the name of her business to one of her trees. She figured the little cloth sign and the stencils would count as small enough and semi-permanent enough to pass.
“On or about [February] 10th, I will return to your property to confirm that the signs have been removed,” the inspector wrote to Drews. “Rather than issuing you a violation letter, I will trust you to do it on your own.”
The paint on the stairs could wait until April, when the weather warms up.
Drews admits she “not so kindly” thanked the inspector as they parted ways. She couldn’t help it. She was mad. She’s been operating a legal business out of her home for years, clearing her sidewalk and stairs fastidiously, and keeping a neat, inviting home. Clients park in her driveway, and there isn’t a lot of traffic to begin with.
She aired her frustrations in a post to a neighborhood Facebook group that same day, asking why her neighbor couldn't have just knocked on the door and talked to her. And what was the deal with this city rule anyway?
“I think this is an antiquated ordinance that NEEDS to be changed!!” Drews wrote. “There are plenty of people that work from home or run home businesses, what harm is it to have small signage? Again, I am not requesting a neon sign.”
Many of the 250-some responses to her Facebook post sounded off in agreement.
Wrote one commenter: “Fuuuuuuuuuck your neighbors.”
Drews contacted her City Council representative, Kevin Reich, who replied on Monday to say the inspector had the ordinance right, but that he was “very willing” to talk to colleagues on the council and see if they're interested in rewriting it. That, Reich said, could take as long as “12 to 18 months.”
Drews is more than willing to fight for What the Hair. For now, she says, those signs are not coming down.
“It may be stupid to some people, but this is my livelihood,” she says.