MIDDLE TOWNSHIP - Michael Terenik's work is on display everywhere - along roadsides, atop restaurants, hanging above delis and dentist's offices alike.
Terenik's work is about other people's businesses.
Terenik, founder of Avalon Sign & Design in Cape May Court House, produces vinyl, wood and electronic signs and banners for banks, municipalities and shops.
He recently finished the entrance sign for the Cape May County Zoo - an etched wood panel with silhouettes of giraffes and lions.
"I have to be creative. I'm an artist. I spent years in art school studying ad and design illustration. It was a niche I fell into. I could have been in some ad agency in the city with a suit and tie, but that's not me," he said.
Terenik opened Avalon Sign & Design in Avalon in 1995.
Five years ago, after moving to a new home in Cape May Court House, Terenik began working entirely from home, where his large basement and garage are his office and workplace.
Much of the work is done electronically - graphics drawn on a computer screen are sent to an electronic router table that shapes the signs. Sometimes, the work involves des-igning the logo or look to a sign. Other times, a company wants specific signs, emblems, logos and looks.
Terenik said his business is an economic indicator of the rises and falls in the market that is mirrored by how companies spend money on advertising and signs.
It dipped last year amid the widespread economic downturn but has rebounded this year, he said.
Terenik is the only employee of his business but uses subcontractors when needed, he said.
Most of his work is in Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean counties but he also works in Pennsylvania and New York.
His list of clients include retail stores, restaurants, bars, medical offices, non-profits and municipalities.
He made signs for Stone Harbor, Avalon and Middle Township using high-density polyurethane designed to last a long time, he said.
Before Terenik got into the sign business, he was a mural painter. He was commissioned to paint backdrops along the Wildwoods Board-walk, alongside motels and other locations.
In 1993, Terenik went to the former East Germany to paint a mural of people working on the side of an old factory, he said.
But mural work was scarce. The sign business, on the other hand, seemed to be in demand.
"There are only so many murals, and people kept asking me about making signs," he said. "People always needed a sign, and after so many years down the road, they needed their sign restored."
Terenik, who would not disclose his revenues, bought a bucket truck in December to make it easier for him to hang the signs himself.
"Constantly I'm always growing, looking for more clients, adding new equipment, educating myself," he said. "Being a one-man show, sometimes the challenges are juggling 10 clients at one time, but it keeps it interesting."
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Avalon Sign & Design
Owner: Michael Terenik, 43, of Cape May Court House
Location: Cape May Court House
Employees: Owner-operated, with subcontractors as needed.