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Sign of the Times – Local businesses poke fun at SEC rivals

Over the years, local business owners have taken it upon themselves to welcome rival sports teams to town with signs that are a little tongue-in-cheek and a little funny.

Two businesses in particular, Thomas Brothers Formal Wear and Bedzzz Express, have taken it upon themselves to poke fun at teams and keep up with the times.

Signs saying things like “Nick Saban shops at Baby Gap,” or “Hey Sonic, restock the corndogs. LSU’s here,” have drawn attention from drivers and drawn business inside, according to Thomas Brothers owner, Sam Thomas. The tradition of putting up funny signs began during football season a few years ago, he said.

“A few years ago, when we got the sign, we would put stuff up there about tuxedos or dresses, and that kind of thing,” Thomas said. “And then LSU came to town for a football game.”

The sign was a hit, with people coming in and commenting, and others sharing photos on social media. Coming up with a perfect sign, however, isn’t always easy, Thomas said. According to him, a good sign must be clever, simple, and not too risky.

Thomas said he and his employees get together every week to come up with sign ideas that are eye-catching and innovative. It also helps, he said, that schools like Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State are such easy targets.

“The simpler the better. You can’t get too complicated — we don’t want to cause a wreck out there,” Thomas said. ”We did ‘Honk if you hate Bama,’ once, and we did get a little flack, but it was just in good fun. We hope to be a recognizable part of the community. It just makes it a lot of fun for us.”

Kyle Langford, the man behind the Bedzzz Express sign, said adding the digital elements to his sign is what really makes the store stand out. Inspired by Starkville coffee shop StrangeBrew, he said he started thinking of ways to add pop culture references to gain customers’ attention.

A self-proclaimed fan of internet culture, Langford said the ideas for the signs come from movies he’s watched, inside jokes between himself and the other salesmen or current events. The most popular sign he’s done, he said, played on the stereotype of the “basic white girl.”

“The one that’s hands-down gotten the most attention is the “Pumpkin Spice Mattresses in Stock” sign,” Langford said. “That is the one that everybody references when I ask them what made them shop here.”

On any given day, those driving down Jackson Avenue can look at the Bedzzz Express sign and see “Frozen” jokes, Monty Python insults or even a joke made at the expense of fellow bed-based business Mattress Firm.

This weekend in particular, Langford said he went out of his way to support the Rebels in their regional baseball tournament games.

“We were talking about baseball, and one of the teams we’re playing, St. Louis University. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out the sign,” Langford said. “We were discussing the school and saying their mascot is a Billiken, whatever that is. So I started going down that route and figured out it’s a glorified troll, thus the troll doll on the sign.”

Sure enough, the sign outside on Saturdau featured a 1990s-era troll doll, with the words “St. Louis Mascot Be Like…”

At the end of the day, both Thomas and Langford said their goal is not only to attract business, but also to show their desire to be involved in the LOU community. It’s something Thomas said just makes sense.

“We love Oxford and we love Ole Miss. We hope to be a recognizable part of the community,” he said. “It just makes it a lot of fun for us.”