Fantastic Signs owner John Oakley with his daughter, Charlotte, and some of his sign collection. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It’s a weekday afternoon, and John Oakley is casually sipping a glass of water watching his two children, Charlotte and Luke, bouncing on an area carpet in his Shrewsbury Avenue showroom. There’s a jump-rope contest coming up, and the kids need practice.
On the wall behind them, there’s a large, white Dorn’s Photography sign. To the right, a red neon “DINER” sign, taken from the old Rex Diner, casts a forceful electric light over the room.
This is the Oakley family’s home away from home, a workshop where Oakley and his wife, Erin, design and fabricate signs; where his kids hang out and play with the family dog, Frank; and where the couple’s collection of roadside Americana dominates the building.
But Oakley’s business, Fantastic Signs, is as much a museum as it is a workspace and den, with fragments of local history that might otherwise be lost to the scrap heap tacked to just about every bit of wall space available.