Sevierville sign maker earns national, international accolades

Sevierville sign maker earns national, international accolades

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Brother Zank still sticks to the basics of sign-making. Brother Zank still sticks to the basics of sign-making.
A sign created by Zank for Auntie Belham's Cabin Rentals was honored in Sign of the Times magazine in the best commercial monument division. A sign created by Zank for Auntie Belham's Cabin Rentals was honored in Sign of the Times magazine in the best commercial monument division.
Zank still creates his own designs and does most of the work by hand, but he admits computers are a handy tool. Zank still creates his own designs and does most of the work by hand, but he admits computers are a handy tool.
Zank was asked to make a sign for the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. A replica of the sign is in his shop. Zank was asked to make a sign for the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. A replica of the sign is in his shop.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) - A local business is staying true to the basics, and the owners say that is proving to be a real sign of success.

Chances are you've seen the work of Custom Craftsman Signs and never knew the people or process behind it.

After three decades of making signs, Brother Zank still sticks to the basics of sign-making, but you'd never know it looking at his work.

Zank and his wife, Vicki, moved to the Sevierville area from Cleveland, Ohio. It was a calculated move to an area driven by tourism and one that cashes in on a homespun feel.

"The type of work we wanted to do was appropriate here and not represented very well," Zank explained.

When the couple arrived in East Tennessee in 1991 they didn't have a single job lined up, but they landed a big project quickly. That helped put their business on the map.

"A very early sign we did here was the 5 Oaks Mall," he said. "When they first built the mall it wasn't Tanger at the time. It was 5 Oaks."

The name and entrance signs for the popular Pigeon Forge outlets have changed over the years. In fact, Zank's crew was busy recently hand-painting new signs for Tanger.

It's attention to detail, like hand painting items, that makes Custom Craftsman's Signs stand out.

"Put simply, we are not interested in what we can do quickly and most profitably, which is why we will never be rich," he said. "It's about the craft, more about creating the best we are capable of, being better next year."

Zank's work can be found throughout East Tennessee, from hotels to upscale communities, and even on garden club signs.

Just this year, a massive piece of art created by Zank for Auntie Belham's Cabin Rentals was honored in Sign of the Times magazine in the best commercial monument division.

Zank's work is often recognized internationally.

He says you shouldn't let the name of his company fool you. It is not just a sign company, but a company that finds creative solutions.

He has a passion that started decades ago when a friend asked him to not only design a sign, but to build it.

"I figured it out, broke every knuckle on my hand, and lost money," he said, "but I loved the process."

Today Zank still creates his own designs and does most of the work by hand, but he admits computers are a handy tool.

Zank's work is so superior, he was asked to make a sign for the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. A replica of the sign is in his shop.

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