On April 1st, 2010, Signs ‘n Such will officially turn 25.

Yes, our 25th anniversary is indeed on April Fool’s Day… which won’t really come as any surprise to those of you who already know us.

We’re planning a little Silver Anniversary celebration later in the season – and would love you to join us. Please stay tuned for details.

We were recently chatting with a friend about a bit of the history of Signs ‘n Such, and he encouraged us to share our story here. So here goes…

The concise, unabridged, uncensored history of Signs ‘n Such

When Signs ‘n Such co-founder Deanne Larson found herself in need of a break from the hustle and bustle (and targets and deadlines) of selling advertising (for such notables as the Swift Current Sun, FM94, and The Express News out of Saskatoon), her first inclination wasn’t to start a sign company. Nope. She took a relaxing job selling waterbeds.  It was only after the waterbed company leaked plans to lay her off in 1985, that she made the leap to launching a career in sign making.  When she learned that her dear friend (and Signs ‘n Such co-founder) Bev. Pratt was also facing a career change, they decided to go into business together.  Why signs?  Why not.  There were only two sign companies in Swift Current at the time, and our enterprising young heroines believed they could offer a better service. And have some fun doing it.

Research and Development? You be the judge.

Before officially going into business, Deanne and Bev. set up shop in Bev.’s basement to try their hand at the fine art of making signs.  The first sign Deanne can recall making was a “Here Comes Saskatchewan!” banner, sporting the Roughriders “S” for the Grey Cup game that year. Now, CFL buffs will know that the 1985 Grey Cup didn’t include a team from Saskatchewan. The basement, it seems, wasn’t well ventilated, or – in all the excitement – nobody bothered to to read that label on the paint.  Either way, that first banner looked pretty good, and they knew they were in business.  A better location had to be found.

Humble, hot, and stinky beginnings

The company was formed and moved into our first “official” location – a mezzanine in a local diesel shop. Talk about your humble beginnings.  The place was hot and stinky, and it wasn’t long before we moved into the back of a building across from where the company is now located.  One of our earliest signs made in that first signs shop read “Gone to Auction, back tomorrow”, which was hung in the front door, while Deanne and Bev. travelled to Simmie, where they bought a beautiful oak front counter, perfect for greeting and meeting with customers. With that oak counter, an answering machine, a can-do attitude that has never failed us, and the tools of our new trade now in hand… Signs ‘n Such was in business.

A brief, and somewhat incomplete history of sign making technology

Back in those days, the majority of our signs were painted by hand.  The process seems primitive today, but was pretty effective: A hand-drawn sketch was enlarged using an overhead projector, onto a sign panel, then painted. As business grew, and sign making technology advanced, we graduated to a “state of the art” automated system called a “GK-1” – which consisted of a desktop computer, DOS software, 12 fonts, and a Houston Instruments plotter that cut whatever lettering we typed into self-adhesive vinyl sheeting – which could then be transfered onto a sign panel, or banner, or vehicle. In 1994, we replaced our old system with the latest and greatest technology of the day – including something called the Gerber EDGE – which gave us the ability to print durable graphics onto self-adhesive vinyl. Business continued to flourish, and we outgrew our space and expanded in that building three times in eleven years – until there was literally no more room to grow.

Fond farewells, friends always

Our dear friend and co-founder Bev. decided to retire around the time that we moved into our present location. We’re all smiling when we use the word “retire”, because anyone in Swift Current who knows Bev. – and most do – knows that she is an absolute dynamo in our community.  From commanding Sea Cadet Drylanders, to her involvement with the SPCA board, The Royal Canadian Legion, curling, and playing ball… Bev. is not a girl who needs to find new hobbies.  We’re very grateful to her for helping us build a great company, and just as grateful to continue to call her “friend”.

A strange letter from an even stranger man

Deanne continued to run the business on her own for several years, until – one day – a strange letter arrived from England, written by an even stranger man.  That man, of course, was none other than our own Graham Parsons, who bought into Signs ‘n Such as a full partner in October, 2001.  When Deanne first read Graham’s letter, she crumpled it up and through it in the wastepaper basket.  A few days later, she dug it out, flattened it out, and read it again.

He found Swift Current on a Map

It seems our pal Graham had owned a sign shop in England since 1976 (still does, as a matter of fact), but had also yearned to move to our home and native land for his entire adult life. So he did some research and started sending letters to sign shop owners to try to buy, or buy into a successful sign company. For whatever reason, Deanne decided to dig Graham out of the trash and respond to his letter. “I thought he must be an eccentric millionaire”, Deanne says, “and I was half right”.  Graham bought in, moved to Swift Current, and the rest (as they say), is history.

A perfect fit

In addition to all those years of experience in running a sign company, Graham brought a love for the work and sense of humour that fit in perfectly with Deanne and the rest of the Signs ‘n Such crew…and his propeller hat (he’s a closet geek).  He and his wife are also Canadian citizens, who are proud and happy to call Swift Current home.  Since Graham’s arrival, the company continues to flourish and expand the services we are able to offer our customers.

The real secrets to our success (Part 1)

We would be remiss in sharing this brief history of the Signs ‘n Such without mentioning (by name) each of the members of our team.  They each enrich our company, enrich the customer experience we provide, and enrich our lives in a myriad of ways.  We are sincerely grateful to and for them:

  • Lynne – Design and Production, since 1994
  • Henry – Sales Associate in Shawnavon, since 1996
  • Dorothy – Administrator, since 1998
  • Kim – Sales Associate in Swift Current, since 1996
  • Bonnie – Production, since 2004
  • Johnny – Production and Installation, since 2008
  • Ginger – Guard Dog, since 2009
  • Thelma & Louie (formerly Louise) – Goldfish, since 2003

The real secrets to our success (Part 2)

We would be equally remiss by not mentioning that we have been incredibly fortunate to work with some truly wonderful clients over the years – several of whom have been with us since our humble, hot and stinky beginnings…

We have used the services of Signs ‘n Such for the past 25 years. No matter what type of sign/banner we need – and we have had some unique and challenging situations – they always provide us with professional and high-quality products.

We know we can count on Deanne and her crew for their expertise and creativity, and best of all, customer service that is second to none.

Thanks Signs ‘n Such for all you have done for the Credit Union Marketing team over the years!!

Pat Friesen
EVP Marketing
Innovation Credit Union

For the past ten years, we have been working with the fine folks at Signs’n Such and with very good reason.  They are creative, willing to think outside the box, and work with their clients to achieve the ultimate signage image.  Sure, they are quick and accurate when it comes to the regular signage we need, but they are particularly skilled at achieving that unique event or campaign impact for which we often strive in all types of signage.

Lyn Johnston, CEO
Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation

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1 Comment

  1. I found this article very informative and up-to-date. I totally agree with the views of the writer that the custom signs play an important role in order to increase the business profits and build brand image of your company among the masses. These signs not only help your existing customers find your place of business, but also help you draw high percentage of the potential customers into clients and increase profitability of the company. These signs are very vital to your business success.

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