Haley Smisek delivers delight to the people of Hunt County. Through her “Sign Gypsies” franchise, the cheerful local small business owner surprises folks in Greenville, Commerce, Caddo Mills, Lone Oak, Campbell and Quinlan with distinctive and eye-popping yard greeting signs—large letters with a personal message accentuated with colorful balloons, stars, hearts, banners and flags.
During the shutdown portion of the pandemic, Smisek’s company took on added importance.
“Originally, I was not going to be allowed to do the signs,” Smisek said during a recent interview. “I had to get permission from Hunt County to continue. I asked if there was a way we could work it out because to eight-year-olds, I am an essential worker. Kids weren’t allowed to have a birthday party or see their friends during that time. The sign would make up for some of the things that they were missing. When I explained that I often work at night and do not have contact with anyone, I got permission to do the signs.”
Smisek offers the yard sign rental service for all occasions—birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, birth announcements, congratulations, parties, sports events and holidays. If it’s a special or noteworthy event, she provides a unique visual presentation. She’s done birthday signs for several folks who have reached the age of 100; one such recipient was 107-years-old.
Sign Gypsies, which began in McKinney during 2014, is now located all over the United States and outside the U.S. in Canada and Guam.
“In the franchise, I’m number 112,” Smisek said. “There are almost 900 franchise owners now. I purchased my franchise in April 2017, seven months after we moved to Hunt County. Since then, I have done thousands of signs throughout the area.”
For a long time, Smisek worked alone or with her family members.
“It was mostly just me until the pandemic hit last year,” she said. “That’s when my husband James suggested that I hire some help. Right now, I have three people (technically four because a mother and daughter work as a team) that help put up the signs and take them down. During the shutdown, I had seven helpers. We were busy doing 10 to 15 signs a day!
“This is a family business. My oldest son Joseph helps me install and pick up the signs. My daughter Hannah was out doing signs with me this morning. I’ve hurt my back so I needed some muscle.”
While the sign pieces are not especially heavy, sometimes strenuous work is called for during the assembly process.
“They are not overly heavy unless you are carrying a bunch of them,” Smisek said. “But it can be strenuous work, especially during the summer because the ground is so hard. It’s like concrete so I have to basically beg my customers to water their yards. At times, the ground would be so hard that you can’t pierce it. So there is a lot of pushing and working around rocks. You would never believe what all is under the grass until you start pushing things in the ground. I can tell if it’s concrete or some kind of metal or rocks. I can feel it and know what it is from the sounds that it makes.”
When folks want to give their loved ones the chance to be amazed by what’s in the yard the next morning, the signs are assembled at night.
“We do the signs at night to surprise the recipient the next day,” Smisek said. “Nighttime is one of my favorite times to go out and do the signs. My phone’s not ringing off the hook. It’s kind of peaceful. It’s my down time even though I’m working. When we do it that way, people get to wake up to the surprise.
“I offer a lower rate to do a daytime sign. We do signs in the morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Usually during the school year, the kids will come home from school and see the sign. Then it’s there until the following morning.”
In order to have enough material to do a sign, Smisek normally asks for two weeks lead time.
“If I have two weeks, I can plan to have everything I will need,” she said. “But there are times that we do signs on the same day that they are requested. Maybe somebody is coming home from the hospital who wasn’t expected to be released that day. Or maybe babies are born. Birthdays can be scheduled; babies do not arrive on schedule. Every now and then there might be an emergency type situation.”
Because she has a plethora of signs, Smisek has to have a place to store them.
“When we were looking for a new home, one thing on my husband’s wish list was a large shop on the property,” she said. “We do have that big shop and that’s where everything is. I have taken over a quarter of the space.
“I have a ridiculous inventory, anything that you would want. Since I’m on my fifth year now, I’ve had quite a bit of time to collect signs. I have to purchase everything from Sign Gypsies because that is our franchise agreement. I’m tickled pink to let someone else take care of the sign creation. I just purchase the cute stuff.”
The sign rental time can vary depending on the situation.
“Usually it is a one-day rental with the option to rent extra days based on the availability,” she said. “That’s when ordering in advance really comes in handy because it’s more likely that I will have the necessary things available. Once I’ve sold out, I’ve sold out! But selling out doesn’t happen often. Recently when I counted, I had 15 separate birthday signs.”
To contact local Sign Gypsies rep Haley Smisek, call 903 883 6542 or go to www.sggreenvilletx.com.