Sign shop stands the test of time

Local business celebrates 10 years after being told it couldn't be done

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The sign business has been good in Craig. It's been so good that Danny Griffith, owner of Sign Source, didn't realize he'd been in business for 10 years until five months after his anniversary.

When Griffith opened a sign-making shop on Yampa Avenue in downtown Craig, a lot of people said he was bound to fail. There weren't enough customers in town to support that sort of business, they said. Once you make someone a sign, they don't need you anymore, and you'll last two or three years at the longest.

A decade later, boasting contracts with the state and federal government for agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Griffith has proved his detractors wrong.

He said it was an accident that he ever even got into the sign business to begin with. In 1993, he was working for his brother's company, APH Construction. The company needed a new sign so he made one. Later on, he asked a company in Grand Junction how much they would have charged had they made the sign. When they told him, he realized there was money to be made in this line of work.

Some people saw the sign he'd made for APH, and asked if he would make them one too. Soon he was spending his weekends making signs. Without realizing it, he was starting his own business. News of his work spread by word of mouth. Job requests kept coming, and he started taking time off from work to fill them. Eventually he had to take a week off work to meet the demand.

"My brother asked me, 'Are you going to work for me or keep messing with these stupid signs?'" Griffith said. "I quit to keep up with the demand."

At the time, there was already a sign maker in town, an old man who painted signs by hand for his own business, Jay's Signs. The advent of computer technology was making his work style obsolete. But the same technology that ended Jay's career launched Griffith's. Griffith admits that he can't do anything with a paintbrush, but he can do many things with a computer.

At Sign Source, Griffith will reproduce a customer's design or create an original design, copyright free. He'll put the design on a sign, the side of a truck, a billboard, or almost anywhere else the customer desires.

During the past decade, he's kept up with technology, and today, two key components of his shop are the latest thermal imaging system, which heats up color foil between heat and pressure to put color of photographic quality on vinyl, and the fastest vinyl cutting plotter available on today's market.

Sign Source's 10-year anniversary passed last August, but Griffith didn't realize it until December. In February, he plans to thank his customers by rolling back the cost of a banner to 1993 prices.

After enjoying a near monopoly on the sign making business in Craig, Griffith is getting some competition in two weeks. Troy DeRose, who worked for Griffith while he was in high school, has returned to Craig after stints working in Grand Junction and Denver, to open up his own sign shop almost directly across the street from Sign Source.

DeRose said there is some tension in the air whenever the two men meet, but for the most part, relations are good.

And Griffith said he isn't worrying about the new store too much. He'll continue treating his customers the same as ever, operating according to the golden rule.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 213 or e-mail rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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