Bill and Carloyn Yuris, residents of East Hampton and originally from Wallingford, are the owners of SignMart at 471 Washington St. in Middletown. They have been in the sign making business for almost 35 years. They were in Wallingford for 27 years and had a shop there, moved to Florida for a couple years and then moved back and opened their store in Middletown four years ago.
I caught up with both of them one morning and they had this to say about their business and life in Middletown:
How did you guys end up in the sign business?
Carolyn: Well, Bill started hand painting before the computer age. Bill’s dad owned a racecar, so the guy used to come and letter the race car so he used to watch him letter the race car. And he thought it was really neat. So that guy gave him a brush and some paint and said, ‘All you have to do is practice, practice, practice’. He still does pin striping. When we started out it was all just paint …nothing was on the computer or vinyl or anything. So when we got the computers we were like, “Ahh! ... What’s this?!” No more pounce patterns – so we fabricate all our own signs here. We build light boxes, these are some card signs that will be routered and they look like they’re wood. And that’s real gold and that’s the only way to do it. Business is OK. You know, it’s OK. It’s not what it was, but it’s OK.
What do you like best about your job?
Bill: I love the creative part and we kind of miss that old kind of creative part when you draw everything out and paint it.
Carolyn: Yeah, he would be in the zone when he’s painting and still now when he’s pin striping I just let him be in the quiet area.
Bill: People have a different appreciation for it. Today it’s “How soon can I have it? And “How much?” They don’t really care what goes into it anymore.
Carolyn: I like to take someone who walks in and is just starting a business and they’re all excited about their business and they have no idea what to do next. Sometimes they don’t even know the name of their business and I have to help them with that.
Bill & Carolyn: Part of it was the non-compete clause. We wanted to get out of Wallingford because you could walk down Main Street and say, “Mine, mine, mine, mine.” And Wallingford became too franchised. And we had done some work for folks in Middletown when we were in Wallingford and we just always liked the area and there just really isn’t anyone out here in our line of business.
Carolyn: I love this community. This community is so different from Wallingford and you would not think there could be such a difference in the feeling. Our customers, for the most part, are really nice people and they are very loyal. In four years look at all these customer filing cabinets (points to several rows) … In Wallingford, I had only one filing cabinet. There’s just a really good feeling in this town. And we’ve been doing a lot of work for the town, so that’s kind of neat, too. We’re working on a new parking project for the “Pay Here” kiosks and more.
What is your favorite place to eat in Middletown?
Well, we like Luce and First & Last, but our real favorite is Eli Cannon’s. Make sure you go to Eli’s for the beer and cheddar soup. It’s excellent.
If you were mayor of Middletown, what would be your first priority?
Bill: Clean up the North End and build a community center off Main Street. Businesses are really struggling because people are afraid to park and get out of their cars.
Carolyn: Or to keep a positive perspective, just maybe work on getting housing and work on getting homes for those less fortunate so they can survive and flourish and maybe work to help those people.