You had me at ’woof'

Talking wooden signs and dogs with local artisan Frank DeLuca

I was perusing local websites recently, searching for a little bit of writing inspiration, when I happened upon a link for Olive & Co., a Chico-based manufacturer of lovely wooden signs. I was hooked the moment I clicked on their Facebook page. Looking back at me from the top of the screen was the cutest little French bulldog, tongue out and all. I'm a sucker for dogs, especially the short-nosed varieties.

The Frenchie in the photo turned out to be Olive. Despite differences in coloring—she's brindle—Olive bore a striking resemblance to my little stubborn sweetheart of a Boston terrier, who, coincidentally enough, is named Oliver.

I immediately started scrolling through the Olive & Co. photo gallery. There are a ton of cute pics with Olive, as well as creations by her owner, Frank DeLuca, which include dog-related items, such as cutouts in the shape of French bulldogs with words like “licks,” “snorts” and “toys.” I instantly related.

So, I decided to track down DeLuca and try to get a date with Olive. Plus, that way, I could get the lowdown on his company, which operates out of a warehouse in north Chico where his father runs a custom cabinet-making business.

After bonding over Olive and pictures of Oliver (yes, I am that pet owner), DeLuca showed me his shop. He uses all hardwoods, he explained, from a local lumber yard, and he doesn't stain them—the stripes you see in many of his works are actually pieces of different woods very carefully glued together. He hand draws all his designs (“stealing them off the Internet would feel like cheating”) and then perfects them on the computer before loading them into a wood-cutting machine. Then everything is hand-sanded, -painted if needed, and -oiled.

At just 24, DeLuca appears to have a promising business on his hands. Just two years in, while attending Chico State full-time, he now has two employees and sells in shops in Chico (Made in Chico), Red Bluff and Redding. His most lucrative sales, however, come online (

The coolest thing about DeLuca's work, though, is how easy it is to customize. He makes wedding plaques, and he also does a lot of “Chico is my hometown” types of things. But “Chico” could easily be swapped out for “Paradise” or “Durham,” DeLuca's hometown, or anywhere else.

One of the most fun parts of his job, DeLuca said, and one of the things that sets him apart, is that he always takes the time to send personal emails to customers—and they often send photos of their dogs in return. “I wouldn't get that if I just had an autoresponse,” he said. That's part of the charm of a local business. I say keep it up!