Sign brightens the day for those who pass by

Sign brightens the day for those who pass by

Donna and Dina DiGregorio, of North Providence, are the women behind the ever-changing sign in front of Michael Florist on Mineral Spring Avenue. The sign has become one of the most recognizable in the area due to inspiring weekly messages and its close proximity to the Rte. 146 exits. (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - For the thousands of people who pass each day, the sign offers words ranging from wise and inspirational to silly and frivolous.

Depending on the whim of its owners, the words at times require little or no thinking at all, while at others it causes passing motorists to scratch their heads a bit.

Michael Florist sits at 1171 Mineral Spring Ave., on a coveted piece of commercial real estate at the intersection of the heavily traveled Mineral Spring Avenue and Rte. 146, but the sign out front rarely advertises the goods and services inside.

Instead, mother and daughter owners Donna and Dina DiGregorio say they use the prime space on it to brighten the day of those passing by with an inspirational verse or witty saying. If an extra customer or two walks through the doors because of it? Well that's an extra bonus.

"We've always thought that if it would make a difference even for a moment in someone's life, then it's worth it," said Donna DiGregorio.

The two women started the tradition with the sign a few years back after taking over the business from Donna's father, Michael Ciancaglini, now 84. Ciancaglini, like his daughter and granddaughter, lives in North Providence.

The sign in front of Michael Florist drew widespread attention last summer after a parishioner at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary just up the road grew convinced that it was confirming his belief that the image of Mary had become visible in the cross on top of the church.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see," read the sign.

The quote, taken from Henry David Thoreau, has made multiple return appearances since the Mary sighting, said DiGregorio, with numerous residents coming in asking that it be put back up. Thousands of people from all over New England descended on the town after a Breeze story last August to see the image of Mary and the sign that helped confirm it.

The Michael Florist sign always has different sayings on its two sides, said DiGregorio. Last week, the side visible to motorists headed down Mineral Spring Avenue toward Pawtucket held the Thoreau quote, while the other side read, "stay close to those who make you giggle."

"Life is too hard to live a 24-hour" day with people who giggle, said DiGregorio, but if someone can use the saying to even improve their habits a little, she and her daughter have done their job.

So where do all these sayings come from?

Most come from scouring the inspirational book or novel sections at Barnes & Noble Bookstore or the inspirational card section at Hallmark, said DiGregorio, who grew up next door to the family-owned business, first opened in 1957.

The sign out front is changed at least once a week and sometimes more often, said the DiGregorios. Once in a while it will announce special hours or a special offer, but mostly it contains just the sayings.

The contents of the sign may seem overly silly at times, said DiGregorio, but she and her daughter often hear from people who stop in just to tell them how much a particular phrase means to them.

Sayings like the Thoreau quote work "for a lot of different situations," she said, making them more relatable to a wider array of people, something to consider given Michael Florist's busy location.

While the DiGregorios come up with all the sayings for their sign, they pay someone to put them up every week.

For more on Michael Florist, visit www.michaelfloristri.com .