Creative DeSIGNS & Concepts sits at the corner of Main and Saunders Street in Whitehall and is owned by Dawn Brazee. Brazee is new to Whitehall but has been busy this summer and fall with clients looking for her to design and make custom signs or other products.
“I’ve been staying busy recently with some different projects and usually business slows down around this time of year, but I’m still working hard” she said.
The business began in 2006 for Brazee while she was living in the Schroon Lake area. During that time, she was making signs for many different businesses and religious organizations within the area. She built the beginning of the business in her sister’s old grocery shop in a town with a population of less than 300.
“She talked to me about renting the grocery store and she didn’t like being there so I said, ‘rent it to me and I’ll put a sign shop in,’ but she said no. The population of the town is 240 people and she decided she wasn’t going to close the only store in town. Then one day she comes to me and asks if I still wanted to do it,” she said.
“It built up the business.”
Brazee was born in Rhode Island and has also lived in Georgia and Florida. In Florida, she obtained her associate’s degree in advertising at The Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale in 1994. She moved to New York for the first time in the 80s and has been able to keep connections with businesses where she has lived in the past. But she mentioned Whitehall has felt more like home to her.
“We moved to North Hudson when I was 10 and I went to school in Schroon Lake. I never felt like I belonged there and honestly, it feels more like home here with the people than when I was in Schroon Lake,” she said.
She keeps photos of all the signs she has made over the years in a large binder behind the front desk of her shop. She reflected about some of the different businesses she has designed and made signs for from the Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce to DeCesare’s Pizzeria.
“A gentleman that liked their (DeCesare’s Pizzeria) sign called me and said he owned a campground which landed me a huge job with a lot of carving by hand,” she said.
When living in Schroon Lake, she also mentioned that she started to do more than just sign designing and carving. Because the area is largely small and locally owned businesses, she started to do vehicle lettering as well.
Some of her vehicle lettering can be seen on the roads of Whitehall with Lake Champlain Coal Company asking her to do the lettering for their oil delivery trucks. Another business in Whitehall that Brazee has created a sign for is The Railyard Taproom and Restaurant. Needless to say, Brazee has warmed up to the community.
“Actually, I went to the bank to get a loan for my shop and the banker came to see the building. On his way up through, I think he knew the Putorti’s or someone involved with the business, he stopped at the Railyard while they were renovating. After he went back to the office after looking at the building, he was like, ‘you might get a call from some people,’” she said.
Brazee takes pride in her work because she is able to turn her passion into her full-time job. Rather than waking up and dreading the day ahead, she looks forward to working on projects for different clients; making it seem less like work.
“It turns into work when it’s the day before and the paint is still having to dry or if I have to paint a lot more for a project due the next day,” she laughed.
With so many projects going at once, there are often scraps leftover of from previous projects that Brazee has worked on. But rather than just throwing them out, she uses plastic tubs to sort the scraps by shape and size to reuse them on later projects.
“These long skinnier pieces of foam I often reuse in sign designs with trees in them. I figure why waste money and materials when I could use them for another project later on down the line,” she said.
There are some different projects on Brazee’s mind for Whitehall that she thinks would be great for the community. With being able to watch Skene Manor through every season, Brazee is toying with the idea of how the castle on the hill could have a sign in the park so visitors to Whitehall can learn about it, as well as how to get to it. Brazee pointed to a spot that would be a good place for the sign across the street from her shop.
“You could do something there that talks about the history of Skene Manor where they’re able to look at it and learn more about it,” she said.
Brazee is new to the Whitehall community, but is thankful for how the community has been there for her and her business. She highlighted how much she loves the area and has quite possibly one of the best views from her shop.
“There’s a lot of people coming up here because they are fleeing other areas and I’m happy I’m here,” she said.