The man behind many of Chicago's most recognizable hand-painted signs doesn't call his trade a job. Ches Perry says his custom-made artworks are “just a hobby,” even after more than 45 years designing and lettering all over Cook County. A hobby that he's spent a long time mastering: Perry, the owner of Right Way Signs, has only taken about two weeks off work since 1969—at least by the estimate of his son Alex, who left his day job last year to head up the business end of the family trade. Earlier this year they moved the business into a bigger studio on the edge of Bucktown.

Hand-lettered signs were long the domain of mom-and-pop grocery stores and pre-Xerox window advertisements. But lately clients from Lagunitas to Twitter have ditched laser printing in favor of a human touch. “For a while I thought that work would never come back,” says Ches, who says he originally aimed for art school and ended up studying sign painting by accident. “As long as I've got that brush and paint, no matter what you're doing is fun.”