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Signs of the Times

Images that are common on quarterboards, like scallop shells to indicate a connection to the sea, and pineapples to show welcome, also harken back to whaling times. Lacy is a master at embracing the tradition, crafting elegant curves and using 23-karat gold leaf enamel to decorate his signs. Deeply incised letters add a touch of intricacy that also honors the history of the craft. He says his work is both a nod to the craftsmen that have handed down the traditions and a step into the future as new generations come up with fun and personal names for their homes. “I crafted one sign with a wave on it that said ‘awave from it all,’” notes Lacy about the creativity of his customers. 

Just like that sign denotes, Lacy too, is more than happy to live a quiet life in Chatham away from it all. “I love our little community and the customers that I get to see in person,” he says. Of course, Lacy’s storied legacy wouldn’t be possible without the love and guidance of a strong, resourceful woman. The gold leafing to the life that Lacy has built in Chatham—the detail and beauty that brings it all together—is his wife, Debbie. 

“I can’t tell you enough how much she amazes me,” emphasizes Lacy. “Debbie is really the one who has grown this business, and she blows me away with what she can do.” When Lacy met his wife in 1999—out dancing, of course—she was a nurse. When he showed her the sign shop, though, he says she was fascinated and immediately knew she wanted to work there. “She got her wish,” he laughs. “She really built this thing. She does all the gold leafing and trains all of our employees. The artwork of it all—that’s all her.”

“Sometimes, the best things in life are unexpected surprises,” continues Lacy. A ship long ago would wash ashore off Chatham, bringing with it spoils for mooncussers (pirates who preyed on shipwrecks) to scavenge, including, perhaps, a quarterboard. That quarterboard would one day find itself above someone’s garage, adding a nautical twist to a home and providing an homage to the treacherous work of grand five and six masted ships that had fallen victim to the renowned shoals of Chatham. Soon there are names hanging high and proud on other garages, and then 150 years later, people across the world are calling Chatham Sign Shop for their own quarterboards to adorn their homes. 

“That’s how I think of my wife. She went from a nurse to an integral part of a sign shop, turning out gorgeous oil paintings within just a few months, as if she was Michelangelo’s daughter,” says Lacy. “Like I said, sometimes the best things in life are completely unexpected.”

Visit Bob Lacy at the shop at 40 Kent Place, Chatham or online at!

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