West Virginia man began sign business at 10 years old
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Joseph Sadie was 10 years old when executives at Borg-Warner Chemicals noticed a lemonade sign he had created outside his home.
At the time people in Sadie’s neighborhood asked him to create signs for their yard sales and other events.
The executives returned to Sadie’s Washington Avenue home in Parkersburg with materials and asked him to paint safety signs for the Wood County plant.
This was the beginning of Sadie’s Executive Sign Co., which began in his family’s garage and has grown over the past 47 years to include customers from companies, governmental entities, schools, veterans groups and other nonprofit organizations.
Borg-Warner Chemicals later contracted with Sadie to produce its signs.
As a youngster, Sadie remembers drawing pictures of his relatives at family gatherings. He earned excellent grades in art classes during his school years.
In the late 1970s, Sadie would stop at Spence Signs on 30th Street as owner Floyd Spence hand-lettered signs. Sadie said he told Spence he wanted to learn to paint signs.
Spence’s advice to Sadie was a sign painter needed to have speed and quality.
“I learned from three or four old-timers” in the sign business, Sadie said.
As a boy, working out of the family’s garage, Sadie called his company Exec. Studios at the suggestion of his father, George.
Sadie later opened Executive Sign Co. at 1031 Market St. in the early 1980s.
One day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan walked into Sadie’s sign shop, accompanied by several Secret Service agents, wanting a sign for his re-election campaign that fall. Reagan requested the sign have red, white and blue colors, a patriotic look, Sadie said.
“Reagan was a nice man. We talked about the colors for the sign,” Sadie said.
Using heavy canvas sheets Sadie made a Reagan-Bush ’84 banner that stretched across Dudley Avenue near Parkersburg High School.
Representatives of George H.W. Bush also contacted Sadie about creating a sign for Bush’s presidential election campaign. Secret Service agents, minus Bush, came to Sadie’s shop for a sign and purchased one that read: “Marietta Welcomes George Bush.”
Sadie still has copies of the checks for the signs from the Reagan and Bush election committees.
Sadie has painted signs for American Cyanamid, DuPont and other companies, large and small. He painted a sign for the former Burwell Theater in Parkersburg.
He has done lettering and striping for race cars, along with sign work and vehicle lettering for Parkersburg and Vienna city governments.
When machines started to take over for the old skill of hand lettering signs, Sadie became a paramedic.
“I lost work. We had gotten away from hand lettering,” Sadie said. He did not enjoy working with machines in the sign business at the time.
He worked as a paramedic for 20 years, while still doing sign work, until he returned to the sign business full time in 2011. While working in the emergency medical field, Sadie said, he embroidered lettering on the uniforms of nurses and doctors.
Sadie is busy these days as owner of Executive Sign Co. at 1971 Seventh St. in Parkersburg. He also operated the business at 1917 Seventh St. for a while.
Workers help him on erecting and dismantling large signs at businesses using an aerial truck.
Sadie said he now offers state-of-the-art equipment capable of producing high-quality signs.
He estimates that 90 percent of his work is done by machine. Some customers still insist on the hand lettering and printing, however, he said.
Sadie considers the military to be a big part of his business.
“We cater to veterans,” he said, creating hats, license plates, cups and decals with military insignias.
Sadie is proud of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial to Silver Star recipient Sam Mandich, former Parkersburg High School basketball coach, athletic director and assistant principal, he created last year on a concrete block wall in the PHS Fieldhouse.
Sadie also does photo restoration, neon sign repairs, custom T-shirts, banners and full-color printing.
Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com