LINCOLN PARK (WWJ) – You’ve heard of a walking billboard — those guys wearing giant menu signs in front of businesses — but one Downriver man has created the latest innovation: The riding billboard.
WWJ’s Kathryn Larson met up with Tom Papp, the entrepreneur who calls his one-of-a-kind gig “Flying Signs.” With just a few dollars in seed money, Papp set out on the ride of his life.
“I had probably $14 total in some stencils and I had a sign that said ‘Your Sign Here,’ with my phone number and I dragged that around for about six months before I finally got a call on it,” he said.
That call led to several more and now the 51-year-old bicyclist is known across Downriver communities as “Where’s Waldo.”
“It’s kind of a game for them to see who could spot me first, wherever they’re driving around,” he said.
Many also call the bright-yellow safety-shirt wearing man by another moniker.
“I felt like in doing the sign, he did the yellow with the red which mirrors our Muffler Man sign, so now Tom has become known as the ‘Muffler Man,'” said Muffler Man Owner Phil Henri.
Henri said his Fort Street location is blitzed with business thanks to Papp’s ride by advertising.
“I’ve done a lot of different advertising over the year and this has been the most effective that I’ve done,” said Henri.
Papp usually travels anywhere between 15 to 70 miles a day and he usually goes about 8 miles per hour — the perfect speed for an advertisers message to come across loud-and-clear. But it’s not always an easy ride.
“I’ve had a lot of very hairy, close calls. I had a woman stop her bumper like right at my leg here on Fort Street down by Mayflower, and I’m in this get-up with this sign and she says ‘I didn’t see you.’ How do you not see me, you know,” he said.
And Papp is banking on you seeing him, so he plans to keep peddling for years to come.
“I’m a type-A, go, go, go and you know, this way I can change my venue if I feel like going west instead of east I do, you know, I’m not stuck in one place,” he said.
If you’d like to get in touch with Papp, you can email him at Tomdiving@yahoo.com or give him a call at 313-928-5658.