Meet the old-fashioned signmaker painting Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Travis Fitzsimmons with some of his handiwork on Antojitos del Patron.
Photo by Ben Verde

Talk about making your mark!

A Prospect Lefferts Gardens craftsman is lending local mom-and-pop shops an old-timey feel, devising hand-painted signs that would feel right at home hanging over a 19th-century doorway. 

“It feels like I’m a small-town sign painter 100 years ago,” said Travis Fitzsimmons.

A Lincoln Avenue resident, Fitzsimmons makes his living as a signmaker, hand-crafting individualized markers, and operating by word of mouth, as shopkeepers swear by the marketing value of his artisanal calligraphy, he said. 

“There’s more feeling when you actually have a human being doing brush strokes,” said Fitzsimmons.

Fitzsimmons claims he fell into sign making — a profession he claims is sorely underrepresented in New York City —  after his wife’s Crown Heights clothing stores, Rosebud Vintage and Peacock Room, closed around 2015. The vendor had crafted the marquee over his wife’s shop, and soon other business owners were asking to borrow his skills. Before long he was “cursed into entrepreneurship,” he said. 

While the craftsman wouldn’t divulge what he charges for his handmade signs, he said the process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, with projects ranging from small sidewalk signs, to windows paintings and large awnings, with prices varying in part. 

What’s consistent is Fitzsimmons hands-on approach to designing his products, working with customers to distill their needs into the perfect sign for their business — not their ego. 

“Simplicity is key,” he said. “They don’t need their whole story up there, they just need you to know that you can go in there and get a taco.”

Fitzsimmons says the coffee window sign he whipped up for Ix on Lincoln Avenue increased foot-traffic to the eatery. Photo by Ben Verde

The signmaker has built up a network of about 100 clients throughout the city, but many of his signs can be found not far from his home in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, where Flatbush shops including Ix, the newly opened Antojitos del Patron, Risbo, and Bonafini, and the Fenimore Street florist Les’ Blooms boast his work, with a total of 15 Flatbush businesses seeking his skills over the years. 

Business owners say the craftsmanship displayed in Fitzsimmons’ signs makes a big difference to shoppers, and that factory-made, vinyl alternatives don’t come bring the same level of character to their storefronts. 

“We like hand-painted signs, because it has its own personality,” said Brenda Castellanos, who owns Ix and Antojitos del Patron and said the brightly colored signage has increased her foot traffic. 

And with plenty of new shops crowding into the neighborhood, Fitzsimmons says you’re likely to see more of his simple yet effective work popping up in the coming years. 

“I feel like the past few months I’ve been living just off this neighborhood,” he said. “It’s more special to me doing stuff here.”
 

 

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