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Signs of the Times

“When I started Chatham Sign Shop in 1989,” explains Lacy, “I also bought a plotter and a computer. That was state of the art back then — everyone else was making signs by hand. Someone told me that Chatham wasn’t ready for anything newfangled like that, but here we are 31 years later.” 

Though Lacy was ahead of his time technology-wise, each of his signs is still hand painted and carved, and it’s the individualism of each piece that Lacy loves best. For him, sign making is the perfect blend of personal and architectural; it takes empathy and understanding to know what a customer wants as well as a designer’s eye to execute a spectacular product. “We’ve made over 200 signs for people in the area,” says Lacy, “and that’s just residential properties. We also hand carve signs for businesses and residences all over the world. The fun part of the job for me is satisfying those customers. Every sign is unique, and people are just so appreciative when they see the final product.”

Lacy’s work not only adds beauty to the homes and businesses where his signs are found, it also contributes to the seafaring history of the region. Particularly with the resurgence of the popular tradition of naming one’s house, quarterboards — gilded, ornamental signs traditionally used to display the name of a ship — can often be seen along the sides of houses and barns, not only in Chatham, but across the Cape. And, the place to go for a one-of-a-kind, detailed quarterboard is, of course, Chatham Sign Shop. 

In the past, quarterboards from shipwrecks would wash ashore and be scavenged as decoration for local homes. Today, naming one’s house is a great way to add character and value to a property. A home with a name has an air of distinguishment — just think of The Breakers, the Vanderbilt family home in Newport, or Highclere, the Crawley estate in “Downton Abbey.” And, since homes play such a major role in one’s life, it seems only fitting they should have a name. Especially in one of the seafaring villages that dot the Cape, a hand carved quarterboard is the perfect way to christen a house and an intricate nod to the history of the region. “Chatham started the trend,” comments Lacy, and its one that Chatham Sign Shop is happy and well-equipped to continue.

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