JS Sign and Awning in Manhattan has a reputation for creating custom works.
John Stroh, the owner, has been working with prints and fabrications for 25 years — and with that, has cultivated a craft that’s unique to the Manhattan area.
However, creating a giant fiberglass apple as tall as his waist was a first for him.
“They contacted us right after last year’s debacle,” Stroh said, remembering the 2017 celebration when at the last minute, the former apple used at Aggieville’s New Year’s Eve event malfunctioned and there was no ball drop. “Ryan Bramhall at Tubby’s Sports Bar in Aggieville called, because we do a lot of fabrication work … and I said of course we’ll donate a new apple, but I didn’t quite estimate how long it would take.”
For the past five months, Stroh said his staff have worked on the project, which also means for the past five months the shop has been in varying states of chaos during the carving process.
“This place had white Styrofoam in it for months on end,” Stroh said.
Starting with wood and huge sheets of Styrofoam, Stroh said he and his staff carved the apple by hand, and scattered around the shop were images of different types of apples — which he said were used to get the shape just right.
“We cut the profile on both sides of it to get to the basic shape, and from there I carved it all by hand,” Stroh said. “It was a lot — a lot of time in carving it, but an apple has such a distinctive shape, we only had one shot to get it right.”
The apple is light — about 50 pounds — compared to its massive size, and is coated in five coats of epoxy resign and painted with the same paint used on automobiles — a shiny candy-apple red that was polished, primed and sanded to give it the same sheen of a real apple.
Stroh said the paint job was done by Jake McTamney, one of his fabricators who has worked with him for the past 20 years.
“Quality staff is unbelievably hard to find, and I’m very very very fortunate,” Stroh said.
The apple will be unveiled Dec. 31, when it will be lowered about 24-feet off the side of the Rally House Aggieville, the former Varney’s building at 623 N. Manhattan Ave., Manhattan as the clock strikes midnight.
“The final product is definitely better than I could have ever imagined,” said Linda Mays, executive director of the Aggieville Business Association. “Making something like that has got to be difficult and the ABA could not be more pleased with the final product.”
Mays added the community is very lucky to have someone like Stroh, who donated all his time and materials to the approximately $25,000 project.
“With this apple — I just wanted to do it,” Stroh said. “We had the opportunity to build it and it’s going to be there for years to come, and it’s going to be in front of all the community people in Manhattan. And that’s a good feeling, that it’s ours — and that we can offer this high-quality product.”
For information about JS Sign and Awning, visit dev.jssign.com.