Vernon sign company has carved a niche for itself
By Sophia Burris
VERNON —Signs of All Kinds is not your conventional family business.
The business started in 1989, when John Prusak and his wife, Allison, noticed a series of poorly crafted decorative mailboxes. John, unimpressed, declared, "I could make 'em better!"
The Prusaks took it first as a personal challenge, and then as a partial pastime. They began transforming mailboxes into anything from boxcars to swans.
One of their first customers ordered a dalmation mailbox, which John and Allison completed around the same time "101 Dalmations" was released by Disney. From there, their popularity heightened considerably.
From just making mailboxes and some signs in the garage of their house, the Prusaks' business flourished, pushing them first to a factory building in Willington for three years and then to the historic Hockanum Mill in Rockville. The mill has been their center of operations now for 10 years. As for further expansion, Allison explains that while they would love their own building, the need and desire for new tools has, thus far, outweighed the need for relocation.
And certainly equipment is crucial to the business. In fact, accumulation of machines was part of the reason for the move to Vernon, because added space was necessary.
"Every time we got a new piece of equipment, it changed what we could do," Allison says. In fact, the business has evolved to the point that mailboxes are rarely an order they are called to fill. Instead, they specialize mainly in architectural signs, carved wood, vehicle advertising, vinyl banners and custom vinyl, and real estate or job site signs. One example is the series of signs they are currently designing for Rockville General Hospital's expansion project.
The Prusaks also run an adjunct business, the Stone Mill, which allows for more individualized creations like slate address plates, memorials, and welcome plaques. For instance, there are flower pots with Irish sayings on them, and plaques declaring the glory of wine. Specialty orders, such as slate game boards, are also available. Examples of their merchandise are displayed on:
Currently, Signs of All Kinds has seven employees. Aside from Allison and John, there is their son, Geoff, who does much of the carving.
Despite its small size, however, the business is growing steadily. Aside from local customers, the Prusaks also sell through magazines and online retailers. Brookstone and L.L. Bean are included in their customer base. Among the local landmarks the Prusaks are responsible for are the St. Bernard church sign; the K.L. Smith Insurance Agency sign— an intricate dragon-and-knight carving framed by castle-like pillars; the Gottier Plumbing and Heating sign; and the Willington town welcome sign.