LEWISTON — Drivers idling at the corner of Sabattus Street and Campus Avenue may not know Richard Gregoire’s face, but they know his work.
“Dogs have owners — cats have staff.”
“I plan on living forever. So far, so good.”
“Save time — see it my way.”
The messages hang for seconds at a time on the 8-foot electric sign attached to The Medicine Shoppe kiosk, Gregoire’s billboard for every pun, silly saying or thoughtful quote that he can squeeze around messages for employee of the month and diabetic supplies.
“Bad puns are a weakness of mine,” said Gregoire, 63, who sports a frequent wide smile and a neat, trimmed mustache.
He started at The Medicine Shoppe in April 2007, splitting his time between public relations and delivery driving, a job that he says came through the same week his unemployment checks ran out. The Lewiston man had been laid off when a local company went out of business, and he applied at The Medicine Shoppe on a lark.
“It was a great match,” he said. “I absolutely love going out and waiting on the customers.”
The shop added the electronic sign in May 2009. Its original goal, Gregoire said, was to advertise general services and specialties on the short, scrolling board.
“We were happy about that, but it was kind of dry out there,” he said.
So he broke up the ads with medical facts (the heart pumps so many gallons of blood, there are so many bones in the body.) That was better.
He added philosophical quotes. Better still.
“I started to augment it with a pun or funny joke, or what I thought was funny,” Gregoire said.
And that’s when the feedback started. People noticed. The first time “Dogs have owners — cats have staff” ran, a customer came in and asked to chat with him.
Gregoire began by using his own favorite jokes and sayings, and ran out quickly. He’s got it down to a routine now, changing out messages daily, and checking websites with greeting card sayings, French proverbs and famous quotes.
“There’s two challenges to getting a saying up there,” Gregoire said.
He has to like it. And, it has to fit. The sign allows roughly 30 letters and spaces to work with.
“It becomes a challenge. Sometimes I hack up a joke so much it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “One of my favorites is, ‘Life is a song worth singing.’ When I’m really stuck, I’ll use that.”
He’s open to suggestions (and he’s surprised that he doesn’t get many.) There’s one quote that Gregoire said he would love to use if, somehow, he can figure out how to pare it down:
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Know someone who makes everyone smile? We’d love to meet them. Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.