Paul Sellers has always been a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, but found himself in an unsatisfying line of work in Chicago. In 1998, a hurricane and a career move toward happiness made all the difference in the world, dropping him on Marco Island and turning him into the “sign man behind the scenes,” at Art Sellers Signs.
“My parents were living on Marco Island back in 1998 and called me up one day to ask me to come down from Chicago to help them button everything down for this hurricane named Georges that was coming their way,” Sellers recalled. “Then, I was watching TV and I heard Al Roker say ‘Marco Island,’ and I said to myself, ‘Al Roker said Marco Island,’ along with the word ‘hurricane,’ and I was on the next flight to Florida.”
Luckily, Georges veered off toward northern Florida, so Marco Island — along with the Sellers — were spared. But, the trip to Marco convinced Sellers of one thing — he had found the place he would like to relocate and an idea for a new career. “Since I had a few extra days down here, I went over to what was known as Marco Walk at the time and saw they had some small little stores there,” Sellers recounted. “I kinda thought I was going to try something new that I didn’t do up in Chicago.”
Sellers owned a computer business in the Windy City at the time when a friend noticed a stained glass window that Sellers had drawn. “I always had a creative streak, and when I showed her that, she asked me, ‘What are you doing in a computer shop? You should be doing artistic work.’ She kinda convinced me at the time to do something different, something that I would enjoy. I was kind of tired of the computer scene, anyway.
“We did a lot of repairs ... we were really good and did really well,” Sellers related. “But people would come in and they were upset about having their computer gone. It was like bringing their car to an auto shop — you know, ‘I don’t wanna fix the car, I just want it workin.’ Or, ‘How much time is it gonna take?’
“I just got tired of people being unhappy when they came to see me in that profession. And when I came down here I was doing the faux etch — the doors that look like they’re really etched in glass — and I did things that people really wanted to see me for and were happy about what they saw. They were happy to come in the door and say, ‘I’d like this.’ Nobody wants to give anybody money, but they were happy to buy something because they want it, instead of being required to because their machine doesn’t work.”
Sellers, however, still does some computer work, although it’s not really his focus; he still has a number of cables hanging on the wall. “So, I guess you could say I’m diverse and that’s something I enjoy, which was definitely beneficial while I was growing the business,” Sellers pointed out. “I’m at the point right now where I can definitely survive with the signage business by itself. But I’m certainly not turning down any other avenues, either.”
Sellers is now known around Marco Island as “The sign guy.” Prior to moving to his new location, adjacent to the popular watering hole known as the Sand Bar, on O’Neill’s Alley, Sellers was located in the Town Center. He also sold gifts, but now is sticking to signs. “Dropping the giftware was one of my concerns, because I was changing the direction of the business,” Sellers noted. “I didn’t want to be as multi-purposed as I had been in previous times. It was just time for me to move on and go on with the signs alone. I had a couple of things going for me in that respect, in that I had received some equipment that isn’t in every sign person’s arsenal.”
One especially important piece is a computer-controlled C&C router that enables Sellers to make things that cannot be done by hand. Not too long after Sellers got the router, Mackle Park was in the midst of building the current playground, with picket fence surrounding the area. In order to help defray the cost of the playground, people could pay to have their name engraved into the wood.
“I got my foot in the door by doing work for the City of Marco Island at the time, and I started doing the names on the pickets for them,” Sellers said. “That was a project that lasted a long time and there were always more names coming in. That was something that enabled me to get to be known with the city, as well.” As a result, Sellers has taken on a variety of other projects for city departments, along with being a licensed sign contractor with the county.
One of Sellers’ most striking products is the unique etched glass annual award bestowed at the MICA Humanitarian of the Year ceremony. “I’ve been doing those for quite a number of years and am very proud of them,” Sellers pointed out. “I’ve gotten into more awards like that since I’ve gotten into this new location two-and-a-half years ago, because now I have more space. I’ve also been able to get some more equipment and I’m able to do large-format printing now. Full color — as in banners, as well — is now available in signage and is becoming more and more the norm. It’s standard, nowadays.”
Another modern innovation Sellers features is long-lasting ink that is resistant to the high ultraviolet radiation exposure in Florida and is more durable and able to last longer. He has also begun doing colorful business cards and other printed materials. “I like to feature unique products,” Sellers added, “such as an illuminated stand with a person’s logo or product shining through, like an open house or paperwork you’d like to exhibit at a trade show. I also have an illuminated floor mat, as well, and a unique creation called a carpet graphic, with a removal logo attached to the thin-napped carpet. I’d like to take credit for these original ideas, but I won’t. I do, however, keep my eyes open for things that are new and different in the industry, and then try to improve upon them, as well.”
Finally, there is a safe, low voltage lighted sign with colored letters that can be customized for advertising. “I try to be something more than just a for sale sign shop,” Sellers summed up, “and have something different for everyone.” So says the “Sign man behind the scenes.”