WESTMORELAND — “Sign, sign everywhere a sign…,” is no longer just the beginning lyric of a song by the Five Man Electrical Band — it’s also the inventory at The Man Cave Antiques store — due to open this summer at 4910 Route 233.
Currently under construction, the store will carry classic muscle car themed signs — tin signs in the tradition of an era gone by when gear heads and grease monkeys wrenched their own hot rods, and when hemi engines ruled and Hurst shifters helped gear the way to nostalgic speedsters.
Jeff and Matt Foster, brothers who grew up in Rome and Youngstown, Ohio, said they were always into the cars as kids. Their dad was into cars and used to take them both to car shows. As an adult, Jeff opened a baseball memorabilia store in Cooperstown and Matt worked for him summers from the time he was about 10 to 12 years-old. Jeff said Matt was a pretty good salesman as a kid.
So good, when Matt left his engineering software sales position in 2008, Jeff said he put him back to work in his store.
“Actually we came across and started selling older ‘man cave’ stuff,” Matt said. “Things like old neon bar room, beer and tobacco signs. What we sell now is the evolution of what we started back then.”
Jeff said he bought a truck load of stuff like that, gave it to Matt, and it was gone just a few days later.
“It was then we recognized there was a market for these signs,” Matt said. “The more we thought about it, we kept telling ourselves this could be a real business.”
However, they also realized they wanted to take a shot at opening a separate store because their store in Fly Creek, just a few miles northwest of Cooperstown on Route 28, was just a little too far and out-of-the-way to attract walk-in customers.
Matt also said the current site in Cooperstown doesn’t have the showroom or the curb appeal they expect to have in Westmoreland.
“We also wanted a place near the Thruway,” Jeff said. “I felt if we could find a spot not far from an exit off the Thruway, we’d be able to attract a broader customer base. If we could find someplace to build near the Herkimer, Westmoreland or Utica exits, on a main thoroughfare, it could really improve our business.”
For the next year-and-a-half, Jeff said he drove the Thruway and exits, looking for a spot to begin their new venture. He also talked to realtors, and still nothing. But what he found in Westmoreland was perfect, Jeff said.
However, it turned out to be a stroke of luck finding the site in the first place, because it had a tractor-trailer parked on it, and Jeff said he assumed the, “For Sale,” sign was for the rig, not the lot.
“Well, actually the sign was for the tractor trailer,” Matt said. “However, after we spoke to the gentleman selling it, he said he’d sell the land if we wanted it — so It was a happy accident we were able to buy the property.”
They did so in 2018 and now that they have the land, the building is going up. They broke ground just a few months ago. When completed, the showroom itself will be approximately 3,000 square-feet. The inside is going to feature a classic car look, including their father’s red 1965 Pontiac GTO.
The inventory will also include bar items, the brothers said, they decided to feature in their inventory due to them not being readily available in the area.
“I like whiskey and bourbon,” said the younger Foster. “But it’s really hard to find a nice rock glass for sale in this area, so we are carry things like that.”
Matt said he admits some signs run into the thousands-of-dollars range, and he has customers for those items. But the store will also have novelty items at a moderate price level, and Matt said he hopes to provide a place where women can come to buy gifts for their husbands, boyfriends, fiances, brothers, uncles and fathers during the gift-giving seasons, and for birthday gifts, too.
The Fosters said they don’t typically rely on walk-in business, but they are excited to explore it with this new location.
The brothers are 50/50 partners along with Matt’s wife, Bethann, and hope to open by the end of summer. Eventually they also hope to get back to their roots.
“We hope to have some car shows or cruise/motorcycle nights here as well,” Matt said. “That’s what made us so excited about the piece of property Jeff located. The size, the road frontage —I think the area is going to be good for that, and it’s something we look forward to.”
The brothers also said they are going to use a lot of glass in the building — and “some distinct” lighting. Matt said the idea is to make it a really cool place where an event like that would truly be enjoyed.
“We are very excited about being a part of this community,” Jeff said. “I take the location as a a good sign...and we should know, after all, we are the sign guys.”
For those who would like to see a sample of what’s coming, can check out the brothers’ on all forms of social media platforms by simply searching Man Cave Antiques. If you’re looking for something specific, call Jeff or Matt directly at 607-322-4052.