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Signs spreading good vibrations

Putting a sign shaped like a stork on the front lawn to announce the arrival of your baby might seem like the yuppie thing to do. But Joe Lopes, who rents such signs, hopes not.

"I'd hate to think we're dealing strictly with yuppies," he said half-joking.

For $20 a day, a couple of newlyweds, new parents, recent graduates and just about anyone else with something to celebrate can get Joe Lopes and his wife, Helene, to deliver a sign of congratulations.

The Lopes have been renting the reusable signs for about a month under the name Sign-A-Brations.

Working out of their three-bedroom house in the Bayport West subdivision, the Lopes have plunked down about a dozen of the plastic placards in and around Town 'N Country. The signs come in several shapes and colors and are about 5 feet tall.

Customers can get anything from the stork or a brown teddy bear welcoming someone home from a hospital stay to a laid-back green turtle lightheartedly lamenting the onset of a 40th birthday.

Lopes thought up Sign-A-Brations several months ago. No carpenter himself, Lopes was going to order plywood signs from a company and rent them to people in the neighborhood.

"It isn't something we've seen much of in the Tampa area," said Lopes, who has noted a few of the wooden signs.

Then he heard about Rent-A-Card, a sign company based in Paris, Ohio. Rent-A-Card specializes in plastic, which is lightweight and easy to assemble.

Sign-a-Brations handles just about any occasion worth celebrating, ranging from graduations to business promotions.

The signs sell the company. People call to say they saw a sign and want to rent one. Day-care centers and offices have asked for the signs.

Another company is considering using one of the Lopes' all-purpose signs to recognize employees of the month.

Lopes has been operating a lawn maintenance business out of his home for three years. His wife is a full-time accountant. When the Lopes decided to start the sign business, they put several signs out on the patio.

The Lopes are considering expanding the business _ possibly with other characters such as elephants, a business person in a suit and floral arrangements.

Doing business conventions would be nice, Lopes said. "But there's always going to be another birthday."

Lopes has a laid-back attitude about the business.

"A lot of people will get a nice charge out of it," he said. "The biggest thing is that someone will get a smile from it."