By John Strege
Successful ideas and products often come from unlikely places, as the late Ely Callaway once demonstrated by hiring a pool cue designer as a consultant. Richard Helmstetter went on to become Callaway Golf's chief of club design responsible for the original Big Bertha.
This isn't to suggest that Signs by the Sea, a New Jersey start-up, will replicate that kind of success, but it has found a niche with a rapidly expanding business that was founded quite by accident.
Michael Yevchak, director of golf at Pine Barrens Golf Club in Jackson, N.J., broke his foot in February of 2011. "He was kind of sitting around complaining and I got tired of hearing that," his wife Kathy said. "So I put him to work. I said, 'you always said you'd make that sign with our name, why don't you do that?'"
The sign caught the attention of a friend with a retail store, who asked him to make a sign for the store. Michael followed that by making a sign for the Pine Barrens golf shop, where an Ahead Headwear sales rep, Chris Crowley, saw it and inquired about it.
"That's how it started," Kathy said. "We made a couple of sample signs and started with the Philadelphia Section of the PGA and Chris started selling them to his accounts. It's kind of just snowballed after that."
Club logos are hand-painted onto boards made to look like driftwood that are then sold by the clubs in their golf shops. The clientele list already is long and distinguished, from Merion Golf Club in the east to Seminole Golf Club in the south, to Pebble Beach Golf Links in the west.
A basic six-inch-by-24-inch sign will retail for between $85 and $95, depending on the club, Kathy said.
"Most of the stuff is still hand-painted," she said. "Everything is finished by hand, stained by hand. We have two or three painters that work with us and a couple other guys who help with finishing. But we probably need to hire five or six more painters. It's little bit crazy right now, I have to tell you."