A thief made off with two Gold Rush-era styled signs left outside a business at Columbia State Historic Park sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning.
Angela Matulich, Columbia, co-owner of Brown’s Coffee House and Sweets Saloon on Main Street, said it was a mystery as to who would want the signs and what they might be doing with such esoteric pieces of local advertisement.
“We didn't have it locked. It's Columbia. We had it tied with a ribbon,” she said. “I’ve been more in disbelief about it than anything.”
The stolen sign was commissioned about 20 years ago by the former owners of Brown’s Coffee House.
Standing at about four feet tall, it is three sided and was wrapped around a pole at the front of the business. On the three panels, the business advertised their “Bill of Fare:” ice cream, ice cold beverages (from lemonade to sarsparilla), baked goods, shaved ice, popcorn and sandwiches.
The text is stylized in traditional mining town style, varying in font and color. Underlines, accents and flourishes adorn each panel. The sign was created in such a way to adhere to an 1850s style enforced by the design of Columbia State Historic Park and does not have any antique value, they said.
“It was made specifically for this area. It's not historic per se,” Angela Matulich said.
Angela’s husband, Jake, 44, saw the sign was missing at about 9 a.m. Saturday when he returned to the business after closing up shop at 5 the evening before.
“We never thought to lock it up because it had been here for so long, it was a fixture,” he said. “I didn’t think it was in jeopardy of being taken.”
Jake Matulich said he did not have surveillance footage in front of the business because it was frowned upon by rangers to have modern technology in the historic district.
The couple reported the theft to rangers on Sunday and to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, they said.
The couple has owned the business since 2014.
They also have owned the Fallon Ice Cream Parlour, since 2014, and the Columbia Clothiers and Emporium since 2016.
“I guess now we have to bolt everything down and tie everything up. If we don't, the town is just kind of left open. It just kind of saddens me. It's so unnecessary,” Jake Matulich said.
If the sign is not returned, the couple is planning a fundraiser to raise money for a new sign and commission an artist for the design.
Either way, they’re watching online sales in the Valley and Tuolumne County.
I think it might have been just a prank. Either somebody is going take it who has a man cave and wants to put it on their wall, or just a dumb prank,” she said. “It's tough to say what motivates that.”
That same night, a more generic sandwich board in front of the City Hotel on Main Street was also stolen, said owner George Segarini.
“The sandwich board signs, we typically we bring in at night,” Segarini said. “That particular night somebody else said to leave it outside. Lo and behold, the next morning it was gone.”
Segarini said the sandwich board was designed with chalk and advertised meal times for Christopher’s at the City Hotel, the restaurant in the building.
He said the wooden frame was made to fit with the style of the town and it also had no antiquity value.
“It's a pretty generic sandwich board sign,” he said. “I think it's some young people, but I don't know what you could use it for. I think it's just prankster type stuff. We will replace it.”