A thank you


New Member
to Al Checca. I've been meaning to post this when i had some free time and tonight is finally the night.

A few months ago, i had a department contact me about lettering a police cruiser. Make that 3. I never designed a cruiser before, nor did reflective, nor applied vinyl over door moldings. I played with the design a few times and i wasn't serious about the job. I wanted it, but my confidence and mind got the best to me. I picked around at the project with the back of my head kinda wanting them to go elsewhere cause i hated my layouts that i did come up with and i just figured i couldn't do it. I couldn't design a cop car.

Well, the police chief wanted some layouts. I submitted one. He liked the stripe on the car, but wanted a few more changes. I then submitted 3 more designs. I didn't track my time into the job, but i know i had a few full days into just researching and looking at other police cars.I wasn't going to bill them on my not knowing how to and jsut figured it as a "learning experience"

Well, those 3 designs, chief like something on each one. Weather it was a font, or an outline, or a color of soemthing, i was told what to do and where to move it. Still hating all my designs, i did what was asked and submitted it again. " Yes, Yes, Yes. I like it, thanks, Chief" i get in a email the next morning followed by another email later that day "order what you need to do the vehicles" so now i'm really scared. I got something i gotta do and really don't have the how to to do it. Still hating the design also.
so, i need to come up with a price. I call d&t and ask him about printing my badges. I then asked him if he had any experience with police cars. He then told me to call Al.

Now, I meet Al Checca twice at the signmeets. We talked and shared some drinks at the bar, but i never conversated with him on the phone. I got his number form Dennis and called.

And all of you that know Al, you know he is a blast to talk to. I told him my situation and asked him too just look at the layout and tell me what his thoughts were. I then emailed him a pic.

I didn't get a response a day or so, so i definatly thought maybe it really did suck or htat he was busy, so i called him again. "It looks great!" he said. We proceeded to talk about what i should possibly charge, reflective materials choices and i mentioned to him that i was scared. That i didn't have the confidence to really do this, but i really want to grow. To take the next step. " I can help ya'

I think i even asked him to repeat himself. "we can make a day out of it"
me "you live like 3 hours away"
Al " oh that's nothing"
so, i took him up on his offer and made arrangements to get everything in

So that Thursday, i opened the shop about 9 and 2 cruisers got dropped off. I paced around abit still intimidated with what was parked outside. About 10, I see a truck at the redlight across the street with blue flashers on the roof. For sure this was my man Al!

Sure enough, the white truck pulled into the parking lot and this "breath of fresh air" came with it. Somehow, i felt this state of mind like, this is really happening.. I'm really going to do this today.

Al and his son got out of the vehicle.

He was really serious about helping me. He even brought some of his tools and the famous painted toolbox. I have friends that i have had for years that i don't think would drive 3 hours out to help me lift a stone. But there was Al, someone that i only knew through signs101 and had meet twice.

We caught up for a little bit. I showed him the shop and my "dungeon" in the basement where my tables are. (due to the showroom of truck toys upstairs) But, he said we had a nice set-up.

So, back to the plain cars parked outside... I had no starting point. Like i said, i've never done a cruiser before. I really didn't know where to start. The front fender, rear, the stripe, the word police or the 911. I hadn't cut anything. I hadn't took any measurements.

I printed out the design. But when i printed out my crown victoria outline with the design on it and took it out.... my heart kinda stopped.

"The door handles are lower!" i told Al.. I honestly though i just f'ed up the whole thing."Can we put this above the door... will it fit?" pointing to the stripe under the handles on the paper....what to do?

Al studied the layout. Then he had a few amazing ideas that i don't think i would have thought of. We then brought the car and i asked him what should i cut first. We took a few measurements and the plotter started to go.

He helped me weed and his son masked. Al and me sat side by side on the cruiser and proceeded to letter it, both sides. He showed me tricks that i hadn't known. I seen snapping the vinyl before on a youtube... but i never really tried to attempt it on a large piece and on a car.

Are you going to let that $5 worth of material scare you??? he would say.

I would probably still be working on it hadn't he came up to help me. I probably would have applied the reflective wet over the molding on the car, i probably never would have cut it on the molding, and i never use my stabilo pencils before. Maybe five times...... now i use them all the time on vehicles. But the knowledge and tricks and just talking to him was an awesome experience. He showed me different tools that he had and the knowledge once again is just priceless on what confidence i got from learning from him. I'm no longer intimidated by these jobs. And i thank Al for that. And I learned things that will last with me forever.

He and his son spent all day here. They took off on the journey home at almost 8pm. We got one car done and the word Police on the second..... the rest of that and the 3rd car i was on my own. Al volunteered to come help me with it..... but i told him he taught me well and that i would take the challenge and i did with confidence and finished it. (Tony, my fiance, helped me somewhat with aligning/holding/handing things to me while i worked and to keep me cheery) but i am proud to say i did it.

So, to sum this up, i owe a big thank you not only to Al Checca, but to Fred and to the late Matt Vipond. I really wouldn't be where i am today nor would i be heading in the direction that i am going hadn't it been for signs101 and the signmeet at MVIP's shop. I wouldn't have meet great people on this crazy journey. Those that don't know me, I started out with no experience. A plotter and a mac handed to me in a business transaction of a purchase of a building.

So, i thank you. I thank all the members on signs101 that have posted to my threads and who i have gotten to know personally through the years since i joined in 05.

P.S. and if your a newbie reading this, or someone looking to get in and grow, stick around..... you might just learn something. I defiantly did:wink:
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Pro Image

New Member
Al is one great guy........I can't wait to see him again maybe up at the next Meet we have......

AL.....YOU DA MAN....!!!!!!!


Glad to hear a good story. Al was telling me about helping you, and the good time he had doing it! Now keep taking jobs and keeping your head up!

Now let all keep Al in our thoughts as he is going through some tough times with his health! He is keeping his spirits up and marching forward!


New Member
That's just how Al is.
I will never forget the day I met him, he showed up at a meet I was hosting in 2000 about an hour before it ended.
It was friends at first sight.
If only more people could be like him.


Way to Go Steph! I can feel every word you wrote...Al is a super guy and I hope he'll pull through another terrible struggle. Matt Vipond...a day and a man never to be forgotten...


Way to Go Steph! I can feel every word you wrote...Al is a super guy and I hope he'll pull through another terrible struggle. Matt Vipond...a day and a man never to be forgotten...


And I can not agree more! Matt Vipond...a day and a man never to be forgotten... RIP brother


New Member
Wow, what a great story!


That is truly what giving back to the community means, teaching the young punks (not you Steph!) the ropes and old tricks.


Premium Subscriber
Fantastic story, Slappy………

Al is one heck of a mechanic and his knowledge is unlimited. You probably only tapped into a spec of what the man knows. He’s truly a great friend and sign person.

However, don’t cut yourself short there, Slappy…. you learned on the job training and passed with flying colors. Anytime a job or situation arises…. never turn it away. Always say to the customer… we can do that and tell them you can do their job in two weeks and then go out and research it and be ready…. just like you did on this one. You got spunk and that’s all it takes to get through anything in life or business.

As for Matt….. I think about him all the time. His meet was great and then we were side by side for three days at our meet last summer. We really bonded after that and had some plans for future things… which now…. are only memories.

Anyway, kudos to you Slappy and big kudos to ‘Al’….. the signpainter’s pal.

surf city

New Member
WOW, amazing story. It made my day today just to know that there are still people like Al in the world. Truly a wonderful, giving person.


New Member
Congratulations and thank you for sharing. Only 3 years in, I still have that hesitation all the time. And when I let one go, I get so disappointed in myself for setting my limitations. This was a very positive read today.

1 - I wish you would "pay it forward" and share one or two of these time-tested techniques

and 2 - When is the next meet? I am willing to travel to learn a few things, particularly hand lettering.



New Member
Thank you for sharing that with us Slap. I can only hope to meet Al, maby at one of the meets. I hope. Jim


Premium Subscriber
The Nor'easter Mixer '10 sounds like its becoming a reality on the weekend of September 17th at Typestries place in New Jersey. :peace!:

Tim Aucoin

New Member
Great story Steph! It seriously brought a few tears of joy! :clapping: I had the privilege of meeting Al at last years meet, and I hope I'm lucky enough to meet him again in the future! He's a class act!

Al Checca

New Member
WOW!!!!! What a surprise, hell I was just helping a friend out that's all.

So may know I seem to have a little time on my hands right now doing the kidney thing and when Stephine called It was no biggie at all to offer a little coaching and spend the day with a friend.
Step your awesome and look how great your work looks... I don't want them behind me.

Like Jill said from the day we met we were sharing what we knew. I don't know anything but I can hang vinyl. We all have been there and some great folks on line taught me it was all about sharing. I always enjoy going to another shop and spending a day learning myself. We have so much to learn from each other.

Matt...........Damn My Brotha, I think of him and Jill every time I pull my sign kit out. Jill painted my cool little "checca head" and Matt redrew and routed out checca heads... Damn just Damn