by Lisa Tome
The phone rings endlessly at Carpenter's Auto Repair.
Most of the time it's someone who needs their vehicle checked. Sometimes, it's people who are having a birthday, anniversary, or are marking another milestone.
Sue Carpenter is on the job keeping track of all of it.
She makes the appointments for the vehicle checks, and writes the special events in orange marker on her calendar.
Nearly every day, Carpenter, or her sister Cindy Biggs, changes the sign in front of the South Chesapeake City business.
"I almost call it the community bulletin board. I change the sign according to what's going on," Carpenter said.
Weddings, birthdays, and community events are posted on the sign in front of the business. "If there's a breakfast in Hacks Point or a Drama Club play, I'll put that up there," she said. "Last year I tried to sell my boat. Or I will put up something like Have a Safe Labor Day. Right now, a customer's granddaughter is having her 16th birthday. That's what's up there," said Carpenter.
She admits that sometimes, there is an overload. A community event will coincide with a birthday or anniversary. "A birthday or anniversary comes before a community event," she said.
The sign, with its changeable letters, has been in front of the business for 15 years. About four years ago, Carpenter discovered just how many people read it. She was trying to advertise that a nearby billboard was for rent. When she put that on the sign, people began offering to rent the advertising space on the Carpenter's Auto Repair Sign.
And although she could have used the sign to make money, she opts to do it for free. "There's no cost. When I put a person's birthday up there, that makes them feel special for that day. The girl whose birthday is on the sign now, she felt special and came out to take her picture with it," said Carpenter.
The sign has two sides, and Carpenter makes certain that both sides have the same message. That way drivers can see it whether they are headed north or southbound on Route 213.
She said she is aware that birthdays are a special day on social media, but she prefers the special touch of the lettered sign. "You could put it on facebook or whatever, but this is still very effective. I get a lot of calls about the sign. A lot of people ask about it," added Carpenter.