Mike Smeck makes a living putting smiles on people's faces with personalized greetings on their yards.
But he wasn't smiling when he went to retrieve a batch of lawn ornaments early this morning and found about half of them — including a unique theme sign worth about $300 — had been stolen.
Smeck and his wife, Marlene, owners of Yard Card Surprise in Amherst, are offering a reward — they're thinking $50 to $100 — for the safe return of the 6½ foot wooden buzzard on a tombstone theme sign. The buzzard was stolen, along with 15 tombstone "critters" (smaller signs), from West 40th Street in Lorain sometime between midnight last night and 4 a.m. this morning.
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Smeck rents the decorations — anything from animals to sports balls to tombstones — for special occasions like birthdays and births. The popular buzzard sign has been around for about 20 years, he said.
The Smecks, who have run Yard Card Surprise for three years since buying the former Creative Cutouts business in June 2006, say they do anywhere from one to five yard displays a night and have had a few critters come up missing over the years but never a theme sign.
The value of the missing signs aside, replacing the buzzard will be a challenge.
"I'd have to take a picture, send it away, have it vectorized to create a pattern, cut it out of wood and have my wife paint it," Smeck said. "If we don't get it back, we're thinking of just going to corrugated plastic. But we have a lot of wooden theme signs that came with the business, and people like them and they recognize them, so we'd really like to get it back."
Smeck said he's hurt and shocked that someone would take the time to steal 16 separate pieces from right in front of someone's house.
"If you look at area it was taken from, it's very well lit, right in front of house, right on corner," he said. "Someone must be really bold to pull up to somebody's house and do something like that."
Smeck, who spent the morning getting the word out about the stolen buzzard via Facebook and Twitter, said he's already getting a lot of support from fans of his business.
"On Facebook we've probably had 10 to 12 comments already from people saying how sorry they are, that they’re shocked," he said.
Smeck's hopeful those supporters can help bring the buzzard home. He thinks once he gets a picture out there someone might see it and recognize it.
"A lot of people think it's probably sitting in somebody's yard as Halloween decoration," Smeck said.
Contact Smeck at (440) 522-2163 or firstname.lastname@example.org with info on the stolen signs.
Contact Rona Proudfoot at 329-7124 or email@example.com.