Wilkins Signs in Marshfield

The inside of Wilkins Signs in Marshfield, Massachusetts looks more like a workshop than a gift shop. There are paint splatters on the floor, half-finished signs in every corner and family pictures hanging on the walls and propped up against the counter.

Wooden signs cover every surface of the cozy shop: carved address markers are mounted on the wall, colorfully-painted sayings hanging from the ceiling as well as dozens of large pieces of wood engraved with the names of every neighborhood in town. The lived-in feel gives the small store a homey vibe and serves as evidence of the store’s promise: That everything sold is hand-painted and made to order.

“It’s what we do,” Jeannine Wilkins said.

Jeannine and her husband, Frank Wilkins, are co-owners of Wilkins Signs, a 35-year-old business that has its mark on a little bit of everything in town. From corporate truck and boat lettering to municipal signs and designs for other small businesses, it’s difficult to drive down Route 3 without seeing some of their work.

“It’s very cool to just be in my car driving down the road and say ‘Oh we did that and that,’ or to be down at the dock looking at boats — I can even tell the difference between my and Frank’s work,” Wilkins said. “We recognize our art and it’s fun to see.”

And while it’s those big-time jobs and corporate contracts that support most of the Wilkinses’ business, Jeannine Wilkins’ passion for paint truly shines in the busy workshop space attached to the company’s storefront.

“This is my fun thing,” she said. “I love coming here — it’s my happy place.”

Unlike the business signs, these works fall into several distinct categories: sports, address markers, home decor, local pride and sayings.

“Kinda pissed I’m not a mermaid,” one green sign says, next to the image of a mermaid tail splashing into the water.

“Hope anchors the soul,” says another, while a third reads “Nanas are mommies with frosting.”

The sports-themed signs might list the Super Bowl wins of the New England Patriots or depict the famous Citgo sign near Fenway Park. Personalized height markers for kids are brightly colored and cheerful, while some of the more colorfully worded signs are decidedly adult.

Some, such as those that will hang primarily outdoors, are carved. Address markers and the names of beach cottages are carved by Frank Wilkins in the couple’s industrial studio down the street — where commercial projects are completed — then painted by Jeannine in her studio. And, like everything else, they’re completely customizable.

“People love being in control of their pieces and with these they come up with their own ideas and what colors they want or that they want a seashell on it or what have you,” Wilkins said. “They’re very popular.”

The Wilkinses’ painted signs are priced based on size and detailing. Small signs sell for about $25 while long, skinny neighborhood signs are priced at $40 and custom address markers start around $120.

The shop is at 1857  Ocean St. in Marshfield, Massachusetts. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends, and can be found online here.

Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger. 

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