By: Tim Studebaker

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – When native Rhode Islander Nicole O'Brien found out 8 years ago that her husband's Air Force orders would be taking them to Japan, she wanted to leave one of her friends with a special gift.

O’Brien says, "I took old license plates, made a sign that said "ROAD TRIP" and gave it to a friend.  And it was made out of all the places we had road tripped."

That's how her business "UNIQUE PL8Z" was born.  O'Brien started selling art made from expired license plates, first at craft shows, then on Amazon.

O’Brien says, "Tremendous amount of business, probably 100% it's grown our business.  It allowed me to open up my gift shop here, allowed me to employ 2 people."

She employs veterans to make and sell those unique plates, plus she sells other products made by veterans and military spouses in her shop "Operation Made" in Warwick.  She continues to sell the plates on Amazon too.

O’Brien says, "On Amazon, our biggest seller is our anniversary sign.  So, the 10th wedding anniversary is the gift of tin, and license plates are made out of tin.  So, people can order their wedding date made from license plates from all the states that they've traveled or lived in.  So, it's a really custom, sentimental piece that they can give for a 10th anniversary gift."

And those orders might see an uptick.  Starting today, Amazon is featuring her shop, along with other businesses, in a special military small business storefront.  If you want to support "UNIQUE PL8Z," O'Brien says you can shop in store or on Amazon, and they are always accepting donations of expired license plates.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019