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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 27, 2011

Is finding stolen sign like tilting at windmills?

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — An antique sign with sentimental value has been stolen from a property off of Carman Road.

The Mastriannis, who treasure the sign, remembered how coverage of a solider statue stolen from the Home Front Café in Altamont led to its return, and home the same will happen for their distinctive sign.

Other stolen icons in Guilderland over the years have included the cow on top of Gruelich’s Market and the elk statue in front of the Elks’ Clubhouse on Carman Road.

The Dutch Mill Nursery and Garden Center, and later the Dutch Mill Antique and Flea Market, also Guilderland landmarks, were owned by the Mastrianni family for over 40 years. Frederick Mastrianni and his brother opened the nursery in the 1940s, and Frederick and his wife, Jeannette, ran the business until 1986.

Mrs. Mastrianni met her husband when he bought the property on Carman Road from her father.

“I used to go over and watch them plant their young trees. Somehow, Frederick got stuck with me,” she said. The husband and wife duo ran the nursery, which sold garden equipment, shrubbery, outdoor equipment, and miscellaneous gifts.

A large, metal, “Dutch Mill” sign hung in front of the nursery and antiques market while it was in business, and, after the shop closed, the family decided to keep the sign and hang it on a building behind their home on Carman Road.

“The sign is a piece of history, and memorabilia,” said Sharon Mastrianni, daughter of Frederick and Jeannette. The family heard a commotion and the dogs started barking around 2 a.m. one morning before Christmas, according to Miss Mastrianni. They called the Guilderland Police, and an officer came and drove around the property, but didn’t find anything.

It was several days before the Mastriannis noticed that the sign, which had been hanging on a concrete storage building behind the house, was missing. Another police officer came to look around the property, and still didn’t find anything, Miss Mastrianni said.

After conducting their own investigation of the property, the Mastriannis discovered a small stepladder and some empty beer cans behind the building on which the sign hung. They also found the piece of the sign that says “Mill,” and they are hoping the piece that says “Dutch” is still intact somewhere.

“We’re hoping that no one took it for salvage, due to the hard times,” Mrs. Mastrianni said. The piece of metal was roughly three to four feet high and five to six feet wide, she said.

“We’re speculating that it might have been young people, because we do have kids who ride four-wheelers and snowmobiles on the property,” Miss Mastrianni said of the 17 acres her family owns.

“It took a lot of nerve for someone to go back there and unscrew the sign,” said Mrs. Mastrianni. The family hopes that the sign was simply taken as a prank, and will be returned in one piece.

“We’re proud that we were part of the community for so long,” concluded Mrs. Mastrianni. “It would be nice to have that symbol of it.”

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