A Quarterboard for Madaket Millie

Madaket Millie | Danthonia Designs

Madaket Millie (image courtesy of NPR)

This is Madaket Millie, a folk heroine well-known to the people of Nantucket, and more specifically, the town of Madaket. Her real name was Millie Jewett.

‘No one visiting Madaket could miss Millie Jewett. She was a powerfully built woman in her fifties with stringy gray hair and a light brown complexion…Of her many feats, she had beaten the head of the YMCA at Indian wrestling, had harpooned a shark with a pitchfork…and so faithfully volunteered for the coast guard that in later years she was made an honorary warrant officer…She ran a small store to which we would often go for ice cream.’ -Bill Hoadley Please Walk Your Horses Up This Hill

She lived on Nantucket from 1907 until her death in 1990, and has been immortalised as a local legend. Although she was never one to brag about her accomplishments, she didn’t mind confirming or denying the many wild and humourous tales that surrounded her. Since her death, a children’s book has been written about her, and a bridge and a restaurant have been named in her honour.

View from Millie's Bridge, Madaket | Danthonia Designs Blog

View from Millie’s Bridge, Madaket (image courtesy of Greg Hinson)

The tourist trap of the northeastern USA, Nantucket is filled with eateries of every price range and description. Millie’s restaurant is unpretentious and proudly local, like its namesake.

Millie's Restaurant, Madaket | Danthonia Designs Blog

Millie’s Restaurant, Madaket (image courtesy of Timothy Valentine)

Although Millie’s Restaurant is not the same building as Millie’s house (sometimes a source of confusion to tourists), it certainly shares some similarities. Both are wooden weatherboard structures at the water’s edge. Both have beautiful views of beach and ocean. One notable difference had been that Millie’s house was adorned with a carved and gilded quarterboard sign while the restaurant had none. Now, the restaurant has a quarterboard, too – actually two of them: One hanging above the entrance, the other hanging from the ceiling above the bar.

Madaket Millie's House | Danthonia Designs Blog

Madaket Millie’s House (image courtesy of knockdown7400)

Millie's House with Quarterboard | Danthonia Designs Blog

..with a quarterboard on the wall (image courtesy of Nick)

The restaurant quarterboards were made in our workshop. It does seem a little strange to be carving quarterboards in Inverell and shipping them to Nantucket (a bit like selling coal to Newcastle). But it was a fun project, taking us back to the roots of the sign-carving tradition. Furthermore, several members of our crew grew up in the Northeastern USA and enjoy making signs for ‘the old country’ from our shop in New England, Australia.

Gilded Stars | Danthonia Designs Blog

Gilded Stars, ready to mount on the quarterboard

For Millie’s quarterboards, we used the typeface Aviano, which has a gracious classical elegance that goes well between the two gilded barn-stars. The combination of black and gold showed up well against the light weathered wood of the restaurant.Millie's Restaurant | Danthonia Designs Blog

Millie's Restaurant Sign (Danthonia Designs)

The quarterboards have now been hanging for more than a year and have even resulted in further enquiries. One gentleman from Florida, after enjoying a meal at Millie’s, bought a similar sign for his own house – ‘Dovey’s Nest’.

Gilded Quarterboard | Danthonia Designs Blog

So, next time you’re in Madaket, be sure to turn your sandy bare feet towards Millie’s Restaurant for a New England Lobster roll and a mug of Whale’s Tail Pale Ale!

Millies Nantucket T-Shirt | Danthonia Designs Blog

Our sign even found it’s way onto a T-Shirt (image courtesy of cyn4)

Signs for the Stanley Hotel

Julian and Tracey Jacobs

Julian and Tracey Jacobs, owners of the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel in Northwest Tasmania is wedged between the Tarkine Wilderness and the Ocean Wilderness of Bass Strait. It is a place that I had wanted to visit for a long time…

– James Woodford, The Wollemi Pine

Stanley, Tasmania

View over Stanley, Tasmania, showing a unique outcropping known as ‘The Nut’ (image courtesy of Tony)

I always enjoy making a sign for an establishment with a bit of history behind it and The Stanley Hotel in Tasmania is certainly one of these. One look at the building makes it clear that it has been around for a while, but – like a well-dressed elderly gentleman – it carries its age with style. The signs we made have been hanging for nearly six years now, and this week Tracy Jacobs, proprietor of The Stanley Hotel, has kindly written down a little about the history of the place:

The Stanley Hotel Sign

(image courtesy of Jules Hawk)

The first Europeans arrived in ‘Circular Head’ in 1826. The township was later renamed ‘Stanley’ in 1842 after Lord Stanley. Stanley became a bustling community and the population was recorded as 233 in 1848. There were twenty shops, sixty houses and cottages, a church and parsonage, a school, house of correction, police office and magistrate’s house, customers house, post office – and of course the Stanley Hotel! During the 1850’s the sheltered deep-sea port was thriving and was essential for the farming districts as a service centre.

Stanley, Tasmania

(image courtesy of Phunny Photos)

A certain John Whitbread was found guilty of poaching rabbits in England when he was just a boy (aged fifteen), and was sentenced to seven years in Van Diemen’s Land [now Tasmania].  He arrived in Hobart in 1828.  As a convict, his record was one of good behaviour, and when he later settled in Stanley he became a fine citizen, businessman and host.  He built the hotel and named it the Emily Hotel, now known as the Stanley Hotel. He bought the block on which it stands from the penal colony for 20 pounds and the building was licensed as a hotel around 1847.

Stanley Tasmania

(image courtesy of Steve Daggar)

In the book A Residence in Tasmania, published in 1856, Butler Stoney describes the Emily Hotel as it was in 1853.  He said that on arrival in Stanley ‘a good and comfortable hotel rewards the weary traveller…Mr Whitbread’s establishment is a fine large stone-built house with many good and well-furnished rooms and every attention is paid to his guests’. The Hotel has been continually licensed since 1847 under various names: ‘The Emily’, ‘Freemason’s’, ‘The Union’ and now ‘The Stanley Hotel’.

Stanley Hotel Tasmania

(image courtesy of Rose Frankcombe)

Preserved houses and buildings with beautiful gardens, sea and rural vistas, the deep water harbour with fishing boats coming and going and a good selection of galleries, restaurants and cafes – all give the town a character of its own. You can spend time visiting the historic attractions, go fishing, play a game of golf, walk on beaches, eat great food made with the freshest ingredients or enjoy a chat with locals in the historic pub.

Staney Tasmania Streetscape

(image courtesy of Russell Charters)

Stanley is also famous for the cleanest air in the world (measured at Cape Grim nearby) and the wide-open skies offer wonderful opportunities for stargazing with bright night skies revealing the magic of the constellations and the awe-inspiring Milky Way.

Stanley Tasmania

(image courtesy of Anna Kwa)

On purchasing The Stanley Hotel thirteen years ago, a major refurbishment (inside and out) was undertaken with the clear aim to ensure that the town’s only Hotel was a stand-out accommodation and dining destination. This  vision has been rewarded with numerous awards from the Australian Hotels Association –  Tasmania’s Best Bistro 2007, 2008, and 2009, Australia Best Bistro 2008, Tasmania’s Best Pub Style Accommodation 2008-13 and Tasmania’s best Country Hotel 2008.

Stanley Hotel Tasmania Signs

(image courtesy of Beast #1)

A few years ago, on our travels, we saw a beautifully hand-crafted and painted sign at the entrance of Wrest Point, Hobart, advising of ‘Ducks Crossing’. The impact of the sign was such that it  inspired us to review the signage at the Hotel and Danthonia’s signs were the style and quality that would suit our heritage building.


The designers were very patient with implementing our ideas and were very obliging to our changes and suggestions. The signs have been in place for six years and still look bright, colourful and show no sign of wear and tear.  The signs create interest and tourists regularly take photographs of them.

Stanley Hotel Tasmania Sign

(image courtesy of Naneh)

Stanley Hotel

(image courtesy of Baker)

A Sign for The Union Bar

After blogging about signs for the best part of a year now, it’s high time we featured a project right here in our beautiful town of Inverell. Otho street – one of Inverell’s two main retail strips – is full of grand old federation-style buildings. Not least among these is the Old Union Bank. Since its days as a bank, this building has been reinvented numerous times. It has been a restaurant, a tavern, an empty building to lease and, most recently, a spiffy tapas bar. Local Builder Tim Russell and his wife Ann thought up the idea, remodeled the building, and opened it in its current form some two years ago now. We were honoured to fabricate the large gilded art-deco-style letters on the building’s dark blue facade. Tim tells more about the project:

The building was purposely built in 1911 for the Union Bank of Australia. The Union bank merged with the ANZ bank in around 1960 and they eventually moved to their new location in 1972. The building was then purchased by Pixie Cydesmith who turned into a first class restaurant until 1979. It was then purchased and turned into a hotel called ‘The Tavern’ until 2010 when it closed for business.

Inverell Tavern

Inverell Tavern

We looked at the building in May 2011 as it was for sale and had been since closing. We tossed around ideas of what we could do with the building until we came up with what it has evolved into. The Union bar, cafe/restaurant and bar with a entertainment area at the rear. The upstairs has two, two bed luxury apartments for overnight or long term stays.

It’s been a lot of hard work to get to where we are today, but very worthwhile and satisfying, Business is good.

Union Building

Renovation work at the Union Building

The location of the sign originally had the Union Bank of Australia moulded into the facade, which obviously had been taken off.  We wanted to create a statement and make people think. The sign has certainly achieved this, as it is the focal point and draws your eye day or night. The investment was really worthwhile.

Union Bar Interior

I was born and bred in Inverell and just love the place. It is one of the most vibrant & friendly country towns in New South Wales. The street-scape is picturesque and the shopping precinct has a charm and vitality that is unmatched. I have traveled to most places on the Eastern side of Australia, and you won’t find a better location for everything required to provide a easy comfortable family-orientated lifestyle.

Union Bar Gilded Letters Inverell

Gilded, Prism-Carved Letters

Union Bar Facade

Union Bar Front

A Logo & Sign for Abla’s Patisserie

Ronald Abla

Ronald Abla at work (image courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald)

If you live in Sydney or Melbourne and enjoy Lebanese sweets, you’ve probably heard of Abla’s Patisserie. In 2006, Michael Abla asked us to design a logo for the sweets shop in Merrylands, Western Sydney. The shop is a large one and it needs to be, to fit the long display racks of baklava, chocolates and cakes on offer. As for the logo, Michael wanted it to somehow represent the unique gift packages which are an Abla’s specialty. The mark would also need to lend itself to neon signage.

Pencil Sketch

We explored the concept of ribbons & bow ties in our initial sketches.

Pencil Sketch

Logo Sketch

The pencil sketch that eventually became the final logo design

Although neon is a beautiful art form, our specialty at Danthonia Designs is hand-carved, dimensional signs. After some discussion with Michael over how best to brand the space, we settled on having one of our dimensional signs inside the shop, and two large neon signs on the outside for the benefit of the motorists on the busy Sherwood Road. ‘Neon is part of our culture’ he explained. At the same time, a palladium-leafed handcrafted sign would look very classy atop a shelf of gift-wrapped goodies.

Abla's Patisserie Logo

The final logo

Abla's Dimensional Sign

Abla’s Dimensional Sign

Sign Detail

Now, eight years later, Abla’s is a growing enterprise. Michael has opened two new shops in Melbourne (Preston and South Yarra). Last year two Abla’s chefs, Jack Abd El Nour and Hazim Hazim won first and second place in the Melbourne Baklava Bake-Off. This is no small distinction. In short, it’s proof that the bakery is home to the best baklava in Melbourne.

Abla's Chef Jack Abd El Nour

Abla’s Chef Jack Abd El Nour at the Baklava Bake-Off

Jack & Hazim

Jack & Hazim

The success of Abla’s surely has more to do with the quality of their products than the design of their logo. There is, however, a certain satisfaction in seeing one’s logo design rendered in giant neon letters and emblazoned on packets of delicious sweets, carted around Sydney and Melbourne and enjoyed with a cup of strong black Lebanese coffee.

Abla's Neon Sign

Abla's Patisserie

Abla’s Patisserie in Melbourne (image courtesy of Alpha)

Abla's Cake

A Sign for Glenferrie Lodge

Jean-Claude Branch & Lapu Lapu

Jean-Claude Branch & Lapu Lapu

Since our last chat with Jean Claude Branch, he’s been busy with another guesthouse on the other side of Sydney Harbour. Naturally, we made a sign for this one too! Today, Jean-Claude tells us about his latest venture:

I’ve run Cremorne Point Manor since  2005 and in that time have learned a great deal about the hotel industry. I always keep an eye on my competitors and always knew about Glenferrie Lodge and their amazing statue which you can’t miss. It’s a three-meter high Phillipino warrior with a deer on his shoulders. Last year the opportunity came to buy the hotel and I managed to convince my bank manager to lend me the money. With seventy rooms, Glenferrie is much larger than Cremorne Point. It also serves a full cooked breakfast so it has a much larger staff. It’s been quite a challenge getting used to operating Glenferrie while still keeping up the standard at Cremorne.

Glenferrie Lodge Sign

The lot for Glenferrie was purchased in 1908 by Mr John Brannelly. It had been a part of the Clifton estate which was a large estate in Kirribilli. I’ve attached a lot map and a brochure from the auction. Mr Brannelly then erected a house and named it Glenferrie, which we believe is a Scottish word, although no place in Scotland is named this. Extensions occurred in 1923 when it became a guest house and has been one ever since. The building has essentially remained the same since that time.

Clifton Estate

Glenferrie Lodge, 1910

Glenferrie Lodge, 1910

Glenferrie Lodge

Glenferrie Lodge, 1980

My first vision was to remove the awful plastic sign and put up a Danthonia sign. I actually started working on the design of the sign with Danthonia as soon as I had contracts exchanged and the sign was up the same month as I bought the Lodge. It’s a unique property in that is has seventy rooms but no en-suites (well a couple). Originally I wanted to put en-suites in the property, however it fits in the market as a nice but economical place to stay in a wonderful part of Sydney. It’s literally three doors down from Kirribilli House and Admiralty House where both Tony Abbott reside and where Prince William and Catherine stayed when they were here in Sydney. I did offer to one of the police escorts that Prince William and Catherine could come for breakfast and Prince George could play in our kids playground. For some reason they did not take up my offer!

Kirribilli House

Kirribilli House (image courtesy of Frankeeg)

Kirribilli is a wonderful part of Sydney. It is literally five minutes to the city by either driving or ferry. However it is full of lovely historic homes, beautiful views of the harbour and has a wonderful cafe and restaurant selection that makes staying and living in Kirribilli extremely popular. We have limited (and popular) parking spots so for under a hundred dollars you can stay next door to (future)  Kings, Prime Ministers and have your breakfast cooked for you. That is also one of the key features of Glenferrie. We have a famous cooked breakfast. It’s always included in the price and is what is generally referred to as ‘The Full English’.

As far as I can gather, it was a prior manager who spotted our statue for sale at an auction and decided it would look good in its location. While it is a little strange, it’s extremely memorable, being almost three meters high and it is going to remain there. I have noticed, though, he does tend to attract little additions and I think we will give him decorations for Christmas.

Glenferrie Lodge

Glenferrie has great bones, it’s got a lovely garden and beautiful views. It is extremely popular. However it was a little tired and needed some freshening up. So, while the changes are not drastic, they are many. I’m re-carpeting the whole place. I’ve already painted the facade and within the next few months the furniture will all be changed. Already the beds have been done which is great as it’s the most important part of the hotel. One aspect that people do love about the hotel is that we are pet-friendly. We are one of the very few hotels in Sydney that is, and unlike the others, we don’t ask huge amounts of money to bring one’s pet along with you. All our pet-friendly rooms either have direct access to the garden or private balconies. This is something we are definitely going to keep as it’s a really unique option for Sydney.

Glenferrie Lodge

Why Not Farm?

Heather & John

Heather & John

A few years ago, we made a classy little round sign for a place called ‘Whynot Farm on Snow Creek‘. Every year, we make hundreds of handcrafted farm signs, for customers ranging from tree-changers with a few acres of land to serious broad-acre ranchers. The Whynot Farm sign was a bit different, though. It had a well-designed logo and a name that sounded like a play on words. What sort of a farm was this? After a few emails with Heather Davis, I found out more of the story.

Whynot Farm Sign

Two years ago, Heather and her husband John studied sustainable farming under the tutelage of Joel Salatin, the self-described ‘Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer’ from Virginia. With the help of their sons, they bought a piece of land and started putting some of Joel’s techniques into practice.

(Heather): The farm consisted of 25 acres on Snow Creek in the Love Valley of the North Carolina Piedmont. ‘Whynot Farm on Snow Creek?’  It’s a question and a farm name all in one. Next came the chickens, pigs, alpaca herd (twenty-six head), sheep, geese, ducks, rabbits, quail, et-cetera. We are now supplying two chefs, four restaurants and dozens of local farmers’ market customers with delicious, pasture-raised, all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats for their discerning customers and families.

Whynot Farm Animals

And the Danthonia sign?  It was a wedding present from some dear friends, as was the chicken sculpture.

Sign & Chicken Sculpture Whynot Farm

Farm Shed & Sign

The logo was designed by Type Work Studio, in Buffalo New York.

(Heather): It was a fun project. We wanted a professional look for our new business so we invested in a logo, brochures, a professionally-designed website, stationery, etc. I believe these things create an appearance of gravitas, credibility and substance that every new business really needs.

Whynot Farm Logo

Whynot Farm Stationery

More recently, Heather & John decided to open a farm shop in nearby Love Valley. It’s a town like few others in twenty-first century North America. The population stands at ninety, and no cars are allowed within town limits – only horses, wagons and pedestrians. The Davis’s purchased the ‘Old Jailhouse’, a small wooden structure in the middle of town. Out of respect to the building’s history, Heather asked us to created a hand-painted, western-style sign to mount on the false front.

Love Valley, NC

(image courtesy of City Data)

This was our first serious hand-lettering job and naturally we had to include some carved & gilded type as well. Here’s a few images of the process:

The Pattern

The Pattern

Chalk Outlines

Since we don’t have a pounce wheel or electro-pounce, we simply applied white chalk to the back of the pattern, and then drew over every line firmly with a pen. This transferred the pattern to the panel. It’s a little hard to see in this photo but it worked.

Painting the first colour

Since we were using Dulux house paint, it took several coats to cover the black undercoat.

Hand-Painting Dude Font

Painting the drop-shadow effect

Adding the Lighter Red Accent

Adding the Lighter Red Accent

Paint Stencil

After the hand-lettering was finished,we used a paint stencil for the carved & gilded lettering (sorry purists).





Hand-Painted Wild West Sign

The Finished Sign

Old Jail House Sign

Pub Sign Detail


Two New Signs in Elgin

It sometimes happens that two businesses open next door to each other, offering goods or services that complement – rather than compete with – each other, benefiting both shops. For example, here in Inverell we have a classy little bookshop called The Dust Jacket. Immediately behind it is Out The Back Cafe. The combination of good coffee and good reading is irresistible, and people flow through the back door from one shop to the other, as if the two businesses were one. Farther down Byron Street, The Magic Pudding Cafe and Me & Mr Jones enjoy a similar arrangement. This type of collaboration fascinates and intrigues me.

Fancy Cafe Sign Inverell

Sign for The Magic Pudding Cafe, Byron Street, Inverell

Last October, two businesses in Elgin, Illinois approached us for dimensional signs. The shops wanted signs that were different, but complementary. It’s a little unusual for two businesses to order signs together, but the two shops obviously collaborate on more than just signage. Elgin Knit Works and The Soulful Sparrow clearly share a common vision for the appearance of the historic building in which both reside.

Here are some photos of the signs being installed by Mike Armado, of Sign-A-Rama Carpentersville, who managed the whole project as well. Thanks Mike!

Installing a sign in Elgin Illinois

Mike Hold the Sign for Elgin Knit Works in a downward pincer grip.

Installing a sign in Elgin Illinois

Hooking the eye-bolts through the quick-links.

handcrafted signs in Elgin Illinois

Both signs hanging in place, ready for an Illinois winter, and what a cold one it was!

And here’s two close-ups of the signs, to give you a better look (photography by Mike):

Elgin Knit Works Sign

The Elgin Knit Works wanted a sign reminiscent of the workings of a watch – a nod to the town’s watch-making history. The Elgin National Watch Works produced pocket watches from 1864-1964.


Sculpted Branch Detail

Long live small business collaboration!

Signs for Reeds Ferry Sheds

Reeds Ferry Sheds Owners

(from left to right) Harry (Hobart’s son), Steve, Mike & Tim Carleton

More than two hundred years ago, Wilber Reed ran a ferry between the towns of Litchfield and Merrimack, on New Hampshire’s Merrimack River. The town of Reed’s Ferry took it’s name from Wilber’s enterprise. Later, in 1960, Hobart D. Carleton built a shed in the town, and decided to name his fledgling business ‘Reeds Ferry Sheds’. Today, the company employs over eighty carpenters, and takes great pride in their workmanship.

Marker for Reeds Ferry

(image courtesy of Dame’s Gussie)

If you don’t consider the humble ‘shed’ to be the pinnacle of architectural beauty, talk to Hobart’s grandsons; Tim, Mike and Steve. Your mind may be changed. We recently caught up with the brothers, to discuss sheds, BMW’s, weather-vanes and signage:

What makes us different?  It’s like buying a car. Many shed dealers sell the Honda Civic. There’s nothing wrong with it, it will get you to where you want to go, but some drivers want the styling and attention to detail offered by BMW. We are the BMW of sheds. Aside from the higher quality we work to ensure a better ‘shed buying experience’. We go beyond to ensure the customer gets their shed with no complaint, because it doesn’t matter if you sell a BMW if you deliver it in the wrong colour.

Reed Ferry Shed

Our Colonial style shed won the award for ‘Top Garden Structure’ in the Boston Flower Show.  We’ve also been named by Business New Hampshire Magazine among the ‘Top Small Companies in New England’, and we’ve won the Angie’s List Super Service Award four years in a row!

Shed in New Hampshire

(image courtesy of Nutfield Genealogy)

We partner with Good Directions Weathervanes in Danbury, Connecticut. They supply hundreds of different styles. The weather-vane is not decided by the shed style chosen, the customer can choose any style shed, then they choose the weather-vane they want. As a customer you might not be the only person to own our ten-by-twelve-foot Country Carriage with Sagebrook siding, but you’re likely to be the only one to own that exact style with a pelican on the weather-vane!

Whale Weathervane

(image courtesy of Nutfield Genealogy)

Two Weathervanes

(image courtesy of Nutfield Genealogy)

We chose Danthonia Signs because we wanted a New England handcrafted look and many of their samples fit the exact look we were searching for.  We wanted a sign that looked like the signs made by artists back in the days of Paul Revere. Like our sheds, the signs had to reflect attention to detail and craftsmanship. Danthonia delivered exactly that…  Even though ‘computer technology’ wasn’t what we want in a sign, technology does make doing business easier. We found Danthonia on the Internet, we ordered our signs online, we corresponded halfway around the world easily by phone and email… and it was no different that Danthonia was in Australia than if they were two miles down the road.

carved wooden quarterboard

Our style of handcrafted signage has it’s roots in the carved quarterboards of New England sailing ships. Here, a traditional quarterboard is carved from redwood. If you’re interested in the history of carved signs, take a look at this post on the Pre-Vinylite Society’s blog: A History of Creative Sign-Making

The ‘Popsicle Shoppe’ is located inside one of our display sheds. Like a car dealership that serves free cappuccino, we serve free popsicles because it adds to the ‘shed buying experience’. Many folks shop for sheds in the middle of the summer, they bring the kids, and the pay-off is seeing the look on a kid’s face when you give him a popsicle on a hot summer day…  It should be noted that there are limits to our generosity. Even though the popsicles are free we take great umbrage if any other flavour besides ‘Reeds Ferry Berry’ is ordered and our signs strongly convey the customer should share our popsicle flavour preference (wink).   Yet despite our narrow minded view regarding flavour choice, we’ve been voted the top popsicle shop operated by a shed company in America and we don’t consider it any less of an honour just because we ran unopposed (wink part-two).

Sign for the Popsicle Shoppe

Right now we’re expanding our showroom offices. The previous office was fine, but when it was busy it was difficult for our salesmen to communicate with the customer without distraction. The new private cubicles will be outfitted with computer design software and allow the customer to create a virtual design and see it on a large wall mounted monitor. It’s a great idea. We stole it from BMW !

reeds ferry sheds popsicle shoppe

A Sign for The Whimsical Pig

Ron and Susan Bishop

Ron and Susan Bishop

Today’s post was kindly written by Susan Bishop, of The Whimsical Pig Bed and Breakfast in Copley Ohio.

Whimsical Pig Sign

The sign we made for The Whimsical Pig

The Copley area, near Akron Ohio, was part of the original Western Reserve Territory of 1807.  In 1876 James and Sarah Moore built the first home on the current site of the Whimsical Pig and began farming nearly 100 acres.  In 1910 Lewis and Naomi Brenner purchased the farm and immediately added a ‘second home’ to a common wall of the 1876 farmhouse in order to better accommodate their large family of 8 children.  For nearly 50 years the Brenner family ran the livestock farm, an orchard and at times a meat market, until the land was sold off for the Brenner Heights housing development in the late 1950s.  The home, now on approximately two acres of the remaining farmland, is still referred to by many longtime area residents as the ‘Old Brenner Farm’.

Farm in Ohio

‘The Old Brenner Farm’

Ron and Susan Bishop purchased the combined homes in 1995 with an eye on restoration. The initial plan was to reconfigure the structure over time into a home suited for a contemporary life style, while at the same time retaining a warm, welcoming farmhouse period feel. Through years of research and loving attention to detail, the couple has combined Ron’s carpentry skills with Susan’s foresight and sense of decorating to restore and transform both the exterior and interior of the residence. Extensive work was done so that there was a seamless flow between the two original structures in order that the home remained true to its farmhouse beginnings. The present home is an example of livable preservation beautifully realized.

Ohio B&B renovation

Now the final goal has been realized…opening the home to others as the Whimsical Pig Bed and Breakfast at Wolf Creek near Akron Ohio. This small niche bed and breakfast offers guests a relaxing getaway featuring large guest rooms with luxurious bedding and spacious bathrooms.  Multiple areas to relax and unwind are available throughout the house, including the parlor with wood burning fireplace, study and garden patio.

Whimsical Pig B&B Ohio

Since it used to be a pig farm, I thought I would continue with that idea.  Since it is no longer a “serious” working farm, I thought I’d use the idea of it being a “fun” pig farm and whimsical seemed like a catchy word to use!  I then named the rooms after heritage pigs which would have been found in this area:  Chester White, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Tamworth, and Hampshire. We got a whole little theme going here!

Steel Pig Sign

Metal Sign made by Lance Shook, from an artwork by Eric Immelt of Red Core Designs in Worthington, Ohio

We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Granville, Ohio [The Welsh Hills Inn] that had a beautiful hand-crafted sign both by the street and on the home itself.  My husband and I talked about what a lovely sign it was several times after our visit and remarked that we would like one like it.  I emailed our host and asked if he would mind giving me the name of the company that had made his sign.  I contacted you regarding my sign wishes, submitted the plans I had for the sign, and hung it proudly once it arrived.

Inn Sign Ohio

Sign for The Welsh Hills Inn, in Granville, Ohio. (image courtesy of The Welsh Hills Inn)

Our whole experience with your company was wonderful. The sign is beautiful!  We get comments about it all the time.  Living in a small town, there are many signage restrictions.  Our sign had to be fairly small to fit within the required limits.  Even so, it is very noticeable from the street and very eye-catching.

pig logo

The logo for The Whimsical Pig – also by Eric Immelt – from which our sign was derived. It already looks like a sign, doesn’t it?

Whimsical Pig Sign

Ron and Susan’s granddaughter shows her appreciation for quality signage.

Lance Shook from the original artwork by Eric Immelt

A Sign for Brennan’s

Sign for Brennan's in St Louis

Behind where I was sitting, I heard the sound of a harmonica emanating from a small doorway that led to a narrow, stone stairway…

– Ethan Brandt (Once a Speakeasy, Always a Speakeasy)

Just over ten years ago, we received a request from a certain Kevin Brennan in St. Louis, Missouri. We had been making signs for less than two years at the time, and Kevin was just getting into the ‘speakeasy’ business. He wanted a rustic faux-timber sign for a cozy little tavern he was opening. It would be called, simply, ‘Brennan’s‘.

This was our first faux woodgrain sign, and we went out of our way to give it the antique look, using wire brushes, ball-peen hammers, chain and other techniques, to give the sign a beautiful patina finish. At the time, I smiled as I carved the phrase ‘Established 2003’ into the panel. How ironic, I thought, to create such an authentic piece of sign art, only to have a current established date reveal how new the sign really was.

Brennans Faux Woodgrain Sign

A Detail shot, showing the faux woodgrain & gilded letters

Sign Frame

We used a wire brush to give a ‘weathered wood’ look to the sign’s frame

Now, ten years later, the sign still looks as old as ever (in the best sense), and I’ve caught up with Kevin once again to see how the establishment has fared:

Kevin: We opened in 2003 as a retail wine, liquor and cigar store in the historic Central West End of St. Louis. Shortly after opening, we added an underground bar with a speakeasy feel.  To access the bar area, you would go around the checkout counter and down the stairs into a lower level.  Two years later, we opened a lounge and restaurant – The Maryland House – on the 2nd floor. Since then, we’ve added a cigar lounge and this will be greatly expanded in spring. We’ve been in business for just over ten years now.

When we first opened our doors, a close friend offered us this piece of advice; ‘Do what you want to do with the place and sell what you want to sell.  You can’t be everything to everyone so just do what you like to do.’ That’s exactly what we did, selling cigars, entertainment, booze, wine, craft beer, and small plates to snack on.

Brennans Cigar Lounge St Louis

The Cigar Lounge at Brennan’s (image courtesy of Cigar Weekly)

Although every bar has it’s share of disputes, at Brennan’s these are done in style, complete with referees and time limits. According to their website:’No one has pioneered intelligent debating on insignificant subject matter like Brennan’s.’ This heated and sometimes absurd debate series is known as ‘Arguments and Grievances’

Kevin: Arguments and Grievances was started back in 2005 at Brennan’s. This is an intense debate series on insignificant subject matter.  Once a month we host four live debates on topical yet sometimes irrelevant issues which have most likely never been broached.  Head to head debates consist of two contestants throwing verbal fisticuffs for three alternating one minute rounds.  Anything goes except for talking while your competitor is talking.  An objective referee oversees the bout. For example; Italian v Amish Furniture, Slow Food v Fast Food, Anheuser Busch v Schlafly Brewery (a Local St. Louis beer), Flip Flops v Moccasins, and many other topics.

Debating leagues have now formed in other major US cities.  These leagues were all started by individuals who started brawling at Brennan’s in St. Louis.  Those cities include Brooklyn, Denver, Austin, and Chicago. We’ve debated everything you have argued about and some things you haven’t even considered.

One thing that was not up for discussion was Kevin’s decision to purchase a hand-crafted sign for Brennan’s.

Handcrafted Sign For Brennans

We selected a hand-crafted sign because it’s one of the most important features to an establishment and – unlike most things – it’s posted right out front so there’s a good chance it’s a first impression.  Today, more than ever, creating a unique place and offering distinct products is more important than ever.  Everything here is constantly changing with the exception of our sign and some of the artwork.  We build things around these pieces and the ongoing story of completing that work tells the story of this place, and ultimately, who we are.  When we had the sign built, people laughed at the established date that we put on the sign because it was current.  They aren’t laughing anymore.

Brennans Sign

(Image courtesy of Somewhere in St Louis)

Besides our Danthonia sign, we have never advertised, but we still find a way to win some awards (even if they have to make up the category)

Here’s a list of some of the awards Brennan’s has received.

And one more thing … Thanks for the sign.  It hasn’t changed a bit.

Sign for Brennans St Louis

You’re very welcome!