Wednesday November 7, 2012

First impressions can be long-lasting ones. For visitors driving into downtown Brattleboro from I-91 one of the first things they see is the steel sign above the entrance of the Robert H. Gibson River Garden. But after years of exposure to the elements it was starting to become an eyesore.

That’s hardly the impression we want to make to tourists who are so important to the local economy.

Local resident and business owner Peter Putnam thought the sign should be a centerpiece that the town could be proud of, so he decided to do something about it.

"We get thousands of people every year who visit, and they don’t drive all of those miles to get into town and look at something like this," Putnam said.

Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jerry Goldberg agreed, saying he also wished the sign had a little more pizzazz.

"It has become harder to read over the years," Goldberg said. "It’s such a focal point for our downtown. It is something that should be attractive and appealing and apparent to people who come to visit." This summer Putnam talked to Building a Better Brattleboro officials about upgrading the sign. He took the steel sign back to his auto body repair shop on Frost Street, sandblasted it and refurbished it, and even sold extra equipment lying around his shop to pay for the gold leaf himself.

The new sign was installed on Monday. Putnam says it should last another 20 or 30 years, and the green paint and gold leaf should be a much more welcome sign to tourists who see it as they come into town, as well as residents who walk beneath it every day.

So now the town has a new sign what will make a much better impression to visitors, one that will make residents and businesses proud of their town. But there’s one more thing Brattleboro can be proud of - having residents and business owners who care so much about their town that they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and donate their time and supplies to improve its image.

"As a chamber it makes what we say about this town very real," Goldberg said. "It can’t get any greater than that. This community is special because of the people who live here and who are willing to step up."