Updated: Feb 21, 2022
An old Lakeside Marblehead area icon could be getting a facelift- and a new set of hands- if one local builder can raise the funds for the project.
For the last fifty years, "Handless Jacques", a 32-foot fiberglass statue of a mustached Frenchman, has been standing outside of the BP Mickey Mart gas station on Route 163 in Danbury Township.
In the late 1960s, Jacques stood outside of a locally-owned sandwich shop in Marion, leaning out over the road carrying a tray with a huge fiberglass roast beef sandwich.
By the 1970s, the shop was bought out by a large chain and Jacques was out of a job.
He was loaded onto a flatbed truck and moved to Danbury Township in the early 1970s, where he has stood and delighted millions of passerby on their way to Marblehead for several generations.
But time and the northwest Ohio weather has not been kind to Jacques. His paint has faded, he's lost his tray and his hands, his coattails and has several holes in his legs and shoes.
However, one former local builder aims to give Jacques a makeover, restoring him to his former glory - but he wants local help to complete the project.
Mike Cahill, who owned Professional Homes and Offices, Inc. out of Medina and then Marblehead, wants to restore Jacques to be the welcoming agent of the Marblehead Peninsula.
"Everyone has been driving past this statue for fifty-plus years," Cahill said. "It brings a smile to everyone's face. People stop and take pictures with him."
All in all, the price tag to restore Jacques was quoted between $68,000 and $89,000, but Cahill said he is up for the challenge.
"It's not your average project," he said. "But the timing is good."
The stars seem to be aligning in Cahill's favor as well.
Late last year Cahill approached the Danbury Township trustees about his idea of breathing life back into the large statue and in February 2022 they were reviewing the zoning laws.
Dave Young, of Young's RV, owns the property Jacques stands on and is willing to work with Cahill on the project.
Corporate BP/Mickey Mart has considered to move their sign to give a clear view of the giant. Managers have also offered to donate power, water and use of the facilities during renovations.
What he needs now is community support and donations from across the peninsula and for interested parties to get involved. And he needs volunteers too.
"The more the merrier. I need all sorts of skills," he said of volunteers. Besides the physical restoration, the project will need the public to spread the word, help recruit others on this unique opportunity.
Cahill's plan is split up into three phases of construction.
First is to fix the statue itself, starting with the broken coattails, down to the feet and then back up again. It will take at least 120 gallons of fiberglass resin, he said.
In Cahill's mind, Jacques will have one hand outstretched, as if to shake your hand. The other will hold a flag pole.
The second phase includes adding signage, stonework and landscaping.
The third is to add solar-powered energy efficient LED lighting around the statue.
Construction will take place in the mild spring and fall seasons, he said, not to cause too much disruption in the heavy trafficked summer months.
Despite having made no formal announcements of Jacques makeover yet, Cahill said it's had quite the robust reaction.
He has enlisted the help of the Greater Port Clinton Area Arts Council to help with fundraising and having a 501c3 behind the project.
The Marblehead Chamber of Commerce has offered to put a donate button on their web pages and help generate donations, he said. Lake Erie Shores and Islands tourism board has also joined the cause.
Though he moved to Venice, Florida, and he hung up his hat working in building 10 years ago to care for ailing family members, on a recent visit back to Marblehead, Cahill said Jacques grabbed his attention and he couldn't stop thinking of him.
He is hopeful that the people of the peninsula, as well as local businesses and other organizations will jump in to that dream with him.
He wants to enlist as much local support and to do the construction with local companies. The more volunteers - from the actual renovation, supplies, equipment and just spreading the word - the quicker the project can get started.
"I want to let the public decide if they want this," he said. "It's about the community. It's up to them."
To make a donation, please visit the Greater Port Clinton Area Arts Council at The Arts Garage, located in the old city garage at 317 W. Perry Street, Port Clinton, OH 43452.
Checks can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 66
Port Clinton, OH 43452
Interested parties can also send inquiries by email to email@example.com. Please include your name, skill sets and how you would like to help.