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Wondering Why Fruitti Cup's Sign is Gone?

The frozen yogurt shop's sign has been ordered removed because it doesn't comply with town regulations.

James Ta received a call this week from a customer, asking where his frozen yogurt shop was located.

The customer was calling from the parking lot.

"I had to take down my sign because otherwise (the town) would have to shut down my store," said Ta, who opened "I don't know that it has hurt my business, but people want to know where my sign is."

Building Commissioner Tin Htway ordered Ta to take down his shop's sign or face being closed. Htway said he was following town code, which states that new signs must comply with standards set for the historic district in which they are located. In this case, bright colors are among the reasons it was in violation.

Depending on who you ask, Fruitti Cup's sign problem is either a misunderstanding or willful ignorance of the regulations. 

Some customers have told Ta they are unhappy with the town forcing him to remove his sign. One resident, Martin Dluzansky, wrote an email to Westborough Patch, saying he was "troubled by the town's demand that (the sign) be taken down the same day with no apparent provision to leave it up until the new sign was available."

"This doesn't seem to me like a very business-friendly environment for a small, independent, frozen yogurt shop that's creating jobs for teens as well as for all the contractors they used for renovations," Dluzansky wrote.

Htway said building code requires non-compliant signs to be removed.

Ta said he erected his sign in early June, weeks before he opened. He received the required permits that allowed him to open, and did not hear until earlier this month that the sign was a problem and that he would need to go in front of the Design Review Committee to receive permission for a new sign.

Htway, meanwhile, said his office had notified Ta of the requirement to review sign specifications with the Historical Commission.

"There is no requirement to have the sign (finalized) before an occupancy permit is issued," Htway noted, explaining how Ta could have opened without the necessary sign approval.

Htway said a Historical Commission member noticed this month that the sign wasn't in compliance. Other businesses in the plaza don't meet the sign standards, either, but they are grandfathered in, he said.

So, the frame that held Fruitti Cup's sign has been vacant since Aug. 20. Posters taped to the inside of the window alert customers that the store is still open.

"It's not nice, it's not attractive," Ta said this week, gesturing to the empty frame. "But I'm going to do what the town tells me. We don't want to get into trouble. I'm working on getting a new sign now."

Ta said the original sign cost roughly $1,500. The new sign, including installation, will be about $3,000—not a minor expense for the new business owner.

"I'm hoping that people will continue to support us," Ta said, noting the warm reception he has received from residents, some who offered to write a letter of complaint to the town when the sign was taken down. "We have a contract here for three years; we're not going anywhere." 

TBH August 31, 2012 at 11:47 AM
This is beyond ridiculous. The town should just be happy someone was willing to to lease a spot in that tired mini strip of businesses. Is it within the so called "historic" district? Yes, but the buildings themselves are far from historic. To cost a new business owner thousands of dollars for the sale of a few colors is outrageous. It's a frozen yogurt shop...not something that was around in historic times. Let them be who they are and at the very least, inform them at the outset of the review process.
Mary Stanton August 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM
The business owner has a responsibility to contact the town and understand the BY-LAWS that they are required to follow this guy should have done that prior to opening his business and putting up an illegal sign. Good for Tim Htway for doing his job
TBH August 31, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Clearly this business owner is making every effort to be compliant. No need to criticize them for putting up a so called "illegal" sign. All indications are that as a new business owner, he was unaware of the process. The reasonable response would be to allow him to retain the sign until the new version is ready for installation. Is having an empty frame somehow more "historic?" This at the very least, is an eyesore to the public and a deterrent to a fledgling business trying to establish itself.
Kari Addington August 31, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I agree with TBH. What kind of business environment do we have in Westborough? With a tough economy and many empty store fronts, don't we want to make new business owners feel that Westborough supports them? Allowing Fruitti Cup to leave up the old sign with a deadline for a more historic sign, would have more reasonable. Forcing a new business to look like they are out of business is unnecessary.
Jon McGrath August 31, 2012 at 01:28 PM
So a giant 7-Eleven sign right next to the rotary is OK, and multiple neon signs in the windows at the Package Store and Three Gorges are OK, but this isn't? Bureaucracy at its worst. If nothing else, it's time to review the rule. The empty frame looks much worse than the previous sign.
PSt1 August 31, 2012 at 01:45 PM
This is disappointing to say the least. My family and I have frequented Frutti Cup on a few occasions and have met Mr. Ta whom is always gracious and personable. I agree with the previous comment that the town should be happy to have a small business owner contributing and trying to succeed.
Michael Crimmings August 31, 2012 at 04:27 PM
That's Ironic. My chocolate Labrador and I were attacked by a brown dog and a pitbull on Mayberry Drive on 8/3/2012 but the town of Westborough only find the owner a $100...They didn't even take the dogs or ordered them to be muzzled. My Labrador had to have multiple staples put in and a drain.
TBH August 31, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Totally agree. I can kind of agree on height regulations, but when it comes to retrofitting a plastic sign into an existing 70's era frame, I think this town has run amuck. Apparently, pink was the violating factor...if you notice, the Dunkin donuts sign on East Main is all orange. Reminds me of the dentist on East Main who, a few years back, had the shortsightedness to renovate his business with vinyl siding. I don't recall how it was resolved, but suffice it to say, despite the apparent historic colors and a much improved appearance, the fact that 21st century building materials were used was the apparent violation. Keep in mind that this building is a short distance from the rusted out railroad bridge, the apparent "gateway" to the historic district. I guess the rust has been grandfathered in.
Ann Marie Vermes August 31, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Jon, you have nailed it.... What's even prettier is the flashing billboard that scolds the residents about snow removal or hurricane debris regulations for all surrounding town redisdents to see...
VGD August 31, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I support the business owner, I think that the sign was cute and the new owners have really brought back some life to that strip mall. They have done a great job integrating into thethe Westborough community and as the previous poster mentioned have always been gracious and personable. They should really cut them some slack here.
corey September 01, 2012 at 12:00 AM
this might be almost as dumb as the dated mindset of not letting non-westborough residents not participate in westborough recreation programs. seriously people are these the biggest issues going on in the world today? let him use whatever sign he wants this is not 1865 anymore.....run your business how you want to run it....seems right to me
Anne George September 02, 2012 at 04:38 AM
This is ridiculous! Way to potentially force a business owner to set his sights on the "next town over!" The people enforcing this law ought to be ashamed. This is NOT the sort of welcome Mr. Ta deserves.
Mike September 02, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Why is a blinking sign unsightly and not allowed on Rt 9 (ala Chambers Ford) but some tacky temporary yellow thing can sit in the center of the rotarty to remind us all that dog registration month is upon us? What's historic about that? I think the store could have been given a period of time to correct the sign v. taking it down.
Bruce September 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
According to the article, "Ta said he erected his sign in early June, weeks before he opened. He received the required permits that allowed him to open, and did not hear until earlier this month that the sign was a problem." Whomever he spoke to should have told him, then and there, of all the restrictions and limitations. What a travesty. All we hear about is how the town is trying to attract new businesses. They really blew it on this one. As a 'protest,' I visited Frutti Cup yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
mae chou September 05, 2012 at 03:40 PM
What is wrong with this town? You aren so picky about a colorful sign, bright and cheerful unlike a lot of DULL things intown. You would not let a deli business put a small sidewalk sign out or the new liquor store at BayState Commons either. Those signs do attract business for the town. You allow 2 small stores, 1 on South Street and 1 on E. Main Street to hang funky clothes outside their stores. We do not think that is a "Historical" appearance. How do you people figure this out? We deliberately discourage new businesses with the weird rules. That sign was not ugly. The area is not attractive as the present owners do not clean up the grounds or try to make it attractive. But the frozen yogurt store did try to brighten up the area.
Jane September 07, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I agree with Mike that the new store should have been given some time to correct the sign and also have to say that the blinking yellow "billboard" at the rotary is completely tacky! I cringe every time I see that thing
Joe September 07, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Let's not shoot the messenger. Tin Htway was carrying out their responsibility, and following up on a complaint. It is Mr. Ta's responsibility to to follow the regulations that are in placeand it is Tin Htway responsibility to enforce the regulations. If you don't like the regulations then go the Historical Commission and find out how to change them. When these regulations were adopted I thought that they were a bit ridiculous but I was part of a very small minority. they have been in place for quite a while, even Arturo's had to change the color of their awning/sign for those of you who have been here for more than a few years. If other establishments offend you then go and complain to the Commission and get it changed. Corey, if you mean that westboro does not allow non residents [ of westboro] to participate in programs that my tax dollars pay for, I completly agree. My tax dollars have doubled in less than 10 years so if someone wants to take advantage of our programs than make them pay as I do.
TBH September 09, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Joe, for the most part, all of the comments on this thread are directed at the rigidness of the town guidelines that make enforcing this regulation (after the fact...) detrimental to a new business. There was no need to force the owner to make his shop look like it had gone out of business. I don't think anyone is blaming Htway for carrying out his duties. But let's remember, the complaint came from a member of the historical commission. Your advise to complain to them is well taken. Bottom line, it is ridiculous that such a group has the power to enforce such trivial regulations to the point that they are affecting the business climate of the town, in general. After all, it's a yogurt shop in a tired strip mall. This town and more specifically, the historical commission, needs to get some perspective.
Mike September 10, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Well why don't they identify the member of the historical commission that made the complaint? I'd love to hear their opinion.

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