Sunday, June 28, 2009

Continuing Sign Shop Saga

Shortly after the impressionable and successful " Starbucks blizzard project "
soaked in to the people at Starbucks in Seattle . . I received another call that they were very impressed and that I would be awarded many more contracts for future stores . . . We went on to do 26 more stores in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, one store in Atlanta, one in Greenwich, Ct. and the flagship store in Boston.

Then I got a call from Detroit . . Starbucks was asking me if I could do a complete new Starbucks store in 3 weeks. That is, a set of 18 inch all brand new neon internally lighted letters and a couple 36 inch lighted logo disks to hang in windows . . . manufacture them, secure permits AND install them in DETROIT ! I was told that two sign companies in Detroit said it could NOT be done in that short amount of time. ( Normally, a job like this requires 6 - 8 weeks. I told them, it's not easy, but yes, we can do it, and I gave them a figure. Next day, Starbucks told me that one of the sign shops in Detroit said that if a company in Virginia can do it, then they all of a sudden said they can do it.

That sign shop will never know what a favor he did me when he decided to take the job !

Then, Starbucks asked me if I "wanted" New York . . . They planned for two downtown stores in Manhattan to open in 8 weeks . . and another 40 or so in the area . . real quick . . you want them ? He asked . . I thought to myself . . What about my cartooning ? Hey, where are we going with all this ? Slow down, take a breath . . This sign shop was only supposed to be in 1975 for a little one-man sign company where I could eventually start my cartoon career . . where did the 26 tears go ? All this was swimming in my head . . HELP ! I want OUT ! HEL-LO ! Anybody home ?

The greatest shock was when I actually tried to estimate the two jobs in New York. We've all heard of the Gambino Family and the Concrete Construction tight hold they had in New York. Well I found out that they were in a whole lot of other "businesses ". The average set of permits for a sign company to secure for a store opening usually consists of Building, Sign and Electrical permits. The cost to the customer whether in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Detroit, Atlanta, Greenwich, Boston or anywhere ( Except N.Y.) was about $600.00 to @1000.00. This includes the actual cost of the permits plus the acquisition fee ( The labor to pay someone to fill out the forms and actually securing the paper permits in their hands ) .

It turned out, in New York, the paperwork had to be "funneled" from one entity to another entity, each time they added the "surcharges" and by the time I got them in my hands, my cost was to be about $2200.00 - $2800.00.
Then, I'm supposed to mark them up ? I couldn't do it with a straight face, and I BEGGED them, PLEASE don't make me do the Starbuck signs in New York, PLEASE ! HELP ! I FINALLY CONVINCED THEM THAT I REALLY DID NOT WANT TO DO THEM, IT WAS HARD TO DO . . But you gotta do what you gotta do. And that was that.

I kept drawing cartoons all the time and selling more and more . . everywhere BUT the New Yorker . . I usually achieve my goals and I'm not used to losing . I STILL believe, and you will see that The New Yorker WILL buy mycartoons . Anybody wanna bet ?

Anyway, in 2001 the Sign Company was sold to a Pakistani Holding Company, it stayed open for two and a half years and they finally lost interest and closed it. One of the top guys had passed away and the old story . . he couldn't get good help . . I believe him . . that is why I always 'MADE' my help.

I remember early when starting my business, The elder J.W. Marriott, who lived in Washington, D.C. was being interviewed on a local business talk show and when asked about getting good help . . He said he always looked for young people with taste and judgement . . and went on to say, " the rest you can buy by the pound . . " I used his advice and it turned out to be very true ! IBM does the same thing as all large companies do.

Some day I'll put this in a book with photos and pictures of signs and employees and a few lettering legends that I had the pleasure to work with . . lots of interesting and exciting stuff . . like accidentally not being able to jump off a high speed railroad flatcar at age 15 years old and travelling to the next town, 50 miles away . . meeting Bob Barnes at age 18 , lunching and chit chatting twice with Johnny Unitis . . . two Redskin Super Bowls, a couple Boston Celtics/L.A. Laker games, bumping into Greta Van Susteren, Mrs. Hubert Humphrey, Mohammad Ali, . . Sitting next to the Bionic Woman at the Pasadena Redskin/Miami Super Bowl . .

Lots of interesting people, employees, conventions, street people, has beens, never weres . .

That's about it for now, 26 years, tightly, very tightly condensed of the "interruption" to my cartoon career.

TH-H-A--A-T-Ts . . AL-LL . . F-F-FOLKS !

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