Pandemic leads family to create custom lake map art

Like many people, inventor Gary Shimer’s business was a victim of the pandemic. The creator of upscale memory and guest books for weddings, memorials and special events saw his business dry up a year ago.

However, Shimer was able to reinvent himself and now has a booming enterprise, producing personalized framed wood maps of lakes, coasts and islands around the country called Notting Hill Designs. But he didn’t do it alone.

“My son Grant and daughter Haley, both DECA students at West Forsyth High School, jumped right in with me and used their skills and experience to create a whole new product,” said Shimer, an Air Force veteran. “Haley, 18, has always helped with my business because of her DECA training in finance, marketing and management. And Grant, 16, looking for a new challenge, helped come up with the new product, created our business and distribution plan. He had quite a surprising outcome.”

DECA Winner - Grant Shimer

Grant, Gary, and Haley at DECA competition

Grant entered his work into the statewide DECA contest and won first place in Georgia. He will represent Georgia in the organization’s international competition, being held virtually in April. DECA prepares high school students across the country to be leaders and entrepreneurs.

The product began as a family project, using laser-cutting and etching equipment Shimer had used for his memory and guest book business.

Personal touch

“We started looking for ways to build from our other business and realized that people probably purchased maps of favorite places, but they weren’t personalized at all,” Shimer said. “Adding names, dates, images that represent hobbies, such as boating, fishing or hunting, then framing them results in a true custom quality work of art.”

The maps are laser-cut birch reverse silhouettes of people’s favorite bodies of water that are mounted onto archival mounting board that represents the water. Personalization is added to the birch panel. Then the map is professionally framed.

Grant works with a customer's order

Grant works with a customer’s order

“The maps can be of any body of water: lakes, ponds, rivers, coastlines, and even islands can be mapped,” Shimer said. “The customer can pick the customization, so each map is unique to that customer. A proof is sent for approval or changes before the final map is cut, fabricated and framed.”

Available in four sizes – 11×14, 16×20, 18×24 and 24×36  ­– the maps can be ready to ship in a couple of days.

“During the holidays, we were really busy, so it took a little longer,” Shimer said. “Business continues to be good; we have sold more than 1,500 so far. And we’re continuing to market them across the country and on the internet.

Grant, who is a sophomore at West Forsyth, is also a competitive swimmer for West Forsyth High School and Swim Atlanta.

“I swim six days a week for two hours a day, so getting both my school work done and our map business has been a challenge especially before Christmas,” he said. “I definitely can’t slack off!”

Fishing, sort of

In their spare time, Shimer and his teens enjoy fishing on Lake Lanier.

“We have lived in the area for more than 25 years and both of my kids grew up on the lake fishing and boating,” said Shimer, a single father. “Almost weekly, you’ll find us fishing – fishing, but not catching.

“After all of these years, we’re still trying to figure out Lake Lanier fishing,” he said with a laugh. “In fact if someone would like to help us learn the tricks to catching fish on Lanier, we would gladly make them a nice map for their home or office.”

For information about Notting Hill Designs, visit or search for the company name on Facebook.

Photos: Courtesy of Notting Hill Designs.