Etching Its Way into Hill City History
From achievements immortalized on plaques and trophies to anniversaries etched in shiny keepsakes, Lynchburg Specialty Engraving, Gifts & Awards (www.LSEAwards.com) has left its mark on the community over the past 31 years.
The company has carved its way into Lynchburg history through a steadfast commitment to quality that has made it the business of choice for everything from sports and corporate awards to wedding and baby gifts, name tags, signage, custom engraving, glass etching, monograms and much more.
“We are in the business of recognizing other people,” explained Brittany Byerly, LSEA office manager. “We are behind the scenes helping out all these big companies and colleges and universities, and even as small as making name badges.”
“We do a lot of custom work,” added Richard Tartaglia, who founded LSEA in 1988 and co-owns the company with his wife, Slena. “We enjoy helping people try to come up with the right words, the right verbiage [for an engraving] because a lot of times they are giving it to someone special.”
Stepping into the showroom at 3018 Memorial Avenue, where Lynchburg Specialty Engraving, Gifts & Awards has called home for 19 years, one can get an idea of the scope of offerings available. In addition to an array of plaques and trophies—various geometric patterns sporting bold lettering, even lifelike images—smooth wood shines and crystal gleams under the soft lighting of a display that also includes custom charms, cutlery, wine bottles, glasses, pewter mugs, plates, monograms, corporate signs, and family names etched into rustic, stone home decor. It’s easy to understand why Byerly and Tartaglia push back at the idea of LSEA reduced to being called “a trophy shop.”
A lot of time and effort goes into showcasing their products, something that even their vendors notice and mention as something that stands out in the industry.
LSEA may not have started with an endless selection and a glimmering exhibit, but a creative touch and commitment to quality has been embedded in the company’s DNA since Day 1. Tartaglia started out selling engraved items at flea markets, laying out and tracing brass letters with a pantograph machine. His business soon moved into a basement and then its first storefront.
“I just enjoyed that type of work, creating something,” Tartaglia said, noting he got his start in the sign shop at Liberty University before buying a machine and going into business for himself. “It was hard, the first few years. Everything we made went back into the business.”
Over the years he has appreciated help from various family members, including his parents, Slena, who manages a lot of the paperwork, and two daughters, including Byerly.
“It’s not one person; it’s a group effort,” he said. “I’ve had good employees over the years.”
And over those years innovations in the industry have allowed the business to expand its offerings. Once limited to things such as signs and brass plates, the opportunities are now as diverse as the clientele in the region.
“The technology has come so far. We can pretty much engrave on anything,” Byerly said. “We have all kinds of machines—we can laser into wood, we can sandblast glass and crystal, we engrave most types of metal, we have a direct UV [ultra-violet] printer.”
People can bring in heirlooms to be engraved, Byerly added.
“You can get as creative as you want to.”
One company had French menus laser printed onto leather and shipped to Paris. Clients bring in everything from earrings and silverware to urns and crystal. A local jewelry shop even partnered with LSEA to create memorable trinkets out of a hardwood gym floor.
“People bring in a lot of things to get engraved,” Byerly said. “It’s rare we can’t engrave on it.”
One time they even engraved fossilized dinosaur poop.
“We are very versatile,” Tartaglia said, “which is good because it keeps us busy all times of the year.”
“Quite often, we get challenged when people bring things in,” he added. “[We wonder] how are we going to do this? Usually, we can work it out.”
As a small, family business, LSEA has depended upon its reputation in the community to continue to thrive. And from the beginning, that reputation was rooted in the craftsmanship.
“We really stress quality in what we do; that’s extremely important to us,” Tartaglia said. “I think because of that people come to us and they come back to us.”
“We try our best to get you exactly what you have in your mind’s eye,” Byerly added. “Whatever you are looking for, we are going to try and figure out a way to make that happen for you. That’s part of the fun.”
The company finds it meaningful that it has been able to be a part of so many events at the heartbeat of the community, from graduations and weddings to annual award events.
“The fact that all these big businesses have been willing to work with us for so many years, I feel just really show that we are doing something right,” Byerly said. “They know they can count on us and that we know exactly what they are looking for.”
“I’ve been blessed with not only having a business that I’ve been able to run for such a long time,” Tartaglia added, “but also to meet so many people, to have family contribute as much as they have and to have employees that are concerned about every job, every order and making sure it’s what the customer wants.”