‘The Sign Man’ brings cheer daily, all year
SPRUCE — Bruce from Spruce is “The Sign Man.”
Rain, sleet, snow, or whatever else may fall from the Northern Michigan sky won’t stop him.
Using plastic letters, he puts up a personalized greeting on the outdoor marquis sign in his yard, 365 days a year.
Eight-and-a-half years ago, Bruce Anschuetz started with “Happy Birthday!” or “Happy Anniversary!” to his family members, friends and neighbors.
“When Blake was born, my grandson, that’s when I put the sign back out,” Bruce said. He used to use the sign to advertise for his deer-hunting business, Anschuetz Whitetail Way. His project grew from there to include employees and customers at Cliff Anschuetz Chevrolet, his family business in Alpena. Now, he has obtained a list from the Eagles Club down the road from him, on U.S.-23 South in Spruce. He has generated a spreadsheet over the years with the names of many friends, family, coworkers, customers, and a whole lot of people he’s never met.
“People text me requests all the time,” he said.
If more than one person is celebrating a special occasion on the same day, he picks two of them and puts one name on each side of the sign.
If he gets a special request, he puts their name on the sign.
Once he puts up a name, he takes a picture, and his friend Sharon Thompson posts it to Facebook. Bruce himself is not on Facebook, but his sign is similar to a Facebook post, shared only by passersby on U.S.-23 South.
“I have people, when I’m out and about, they can’t wait to drive by here in the morning and see who’s birthday it is,” Bruce said. “Spruce is not very big, so there’s a pretty good chance somebody knows somebody that’s on that sign.”
He puts local names on there, unless he gets a special request from someone out of town.
He usually changes the sign the night before, but sometimes he does it in the early morning.
It takes him about 20 minutes to change the sign, and that’s a long 20 minutes in the dead of winter, but he says it’s worth it to him.
“I think it’s pretty neat,” Bruce said. “People really like to see it … It is a lot of work. It’s time-consuming. It’s not digital or anything. You’ve got to physically change the letters.”
He had a medical procedure earlier this year, and while he was gone, his wife Tami handled the sign for him. They got married on Sept. 11.
“When he came back, the sign said ‘Welcome Home, Bruce from Spruce!'” Tami said, adding that he had tears in his eyes when he saw it.
In the wintertime, she also snowblows a path from the driveway to the sign for him, “so he doesn’t have to trudge through the snow,” she said.
When asked what happens with the sign if he leaves town, Bruce said, “I don’t leave town.”
He likes to stay where the deer play.
“We have a 14-year-old doe (Ruthie) that has no teeth, so I have to mash up everything that she has, and she comes to the door and wants to eat,” Tami said.
Although they do still offer deer tours and trophy hunts through Anschuetz Whitetail Way, the deer that come visit them in the backyard are off limits, Bruce said as he tossed a few apples out to a buck and a couple of does, one of which he called “Trudy.”
They also have a “new Maddie,” a 10-week-old yellow Labrador Retriever, who likes to follow them around.
“She’s The Sign Man’s partner,” Tami said of the wee pup.
She comes after the “old Maddie,” who passed away this summer at age 13. She was a friendly gal who came to work with Bruce and enjoyed interacting with customers, he said.
Bruce likes to stay busy, and he enjoys spreading positivity in his corner of the world.
He said he plans to continue putting out the sign, “for as long as I can.”