Bob Morin tells clients that Holiday Signs turns traffic into customers.
"Signage is a value, an investment because it draws customers in," he said about his Chester-based business that designs, manufactures and installs custom electric signs.
"Virtually every sign we make is one of a kind," Morin said. "Our signs are unique and eye catching."
One of the company's most unusual signs is the nearly 27-foot tall sign created for Bass Pro Shops in Hanover County's Winding Brook development. Holiday was challenged with creating a distinctive sign that featured fish and water. The result was a 16-foot tall fish in splashing water mounted on a masonry base.
Kay Pangraze, senior vice president of Indiana-based development company Holladay Properties, which is developing Winding Brook, was pleased with Holiday Signs' ability to take the concept her company had envisioned and create a sign that stands out.
"They were highly responsive to our needs throughout the project," she said. "They had outstanding customer service and [did] high quality work. They were the right fit for us."
Morin bought Holiday Signs in 2001 from Henry Moore, who founded the company in 1979 and still continues to work at the business.
"Henry is a key employee," Morin said. "We are proud of how we've figured out how to work side-by-side to benefit our employees and customers."
Before buying the company, Morin served as president of AMF Bowling. He left the company in 1998, two years after it was sold to Goldman, Sachs & Co. He then served as president and chief operating officer of S&S/Superior in Lima, Ohio, a manufacturer of hearses and limousines.
"After running companies and consulting for 15 years, I decided I wanted to do something on my own," Morin said. "I looked at different companies and then came across Holiday Signs. It was a strong company. There was a good opportunity for growth at that time."
The company works primarily in Virginia, Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area even though it has installed signs in California, Maine, Texas, Ohio and Colorado.
"I like to focus on regional chains that value having a partner that they can rely on for its expertise," Morin said. "We get them the best sign package for their circumstances."
Barry Simmerman, director of facilities for the Richmond-based law firm Williams Mullen, said Holiday Signs fabricated and installed the internally illuminated letters on the company's downtown building.
"They had a lot of good ideas as far as the type of lighting to use, the size and thickness of the letters and the details involved with the products used to get the best visibility of the signage," he said. "Their follow-up has been good as well."
Most of the company's customers are retailers and developers. From 2001 to 2006, business grew 70 percent.
"The economy has been bad for the last four years for construction and development," Morin said. "Up till then, we had grown significantly."
Despite the economic doldrums, the company has not had to lay off any employees.
"I consider that a victory," Morin said. "We made it a point to do that because we feel that our people are our strongest asset. We are investing in ourselves in terms of marketing as well as staff and client development. When the economy does rebound, we will be positioned to serve our clients and grow."
Many of the company's projects are technically difficult, such as refurbishing the historic Hotel John Marshall's 90-year-old sign.
"It needed to be updated and yet they wanted to retain its historic character," Morin said.
Holiday's design makes the sign appear to be lighted by individual incandescent bulbs when in reality it uses energy-saving LED lights behind digital print.
"It looks three dimensional," Morin said. "It looks like a 1920s sign."
In the past 10 years, Morin, like others in his industry, has shifted from always using neon lights to hardly using them at all, opting for LED lights instead.
"The advantage of LED is lower energy consumption and longer life," he said. "They are more environmentally friendly, but they do cost more upfront."
John Crank, principal designer and owner of The 1717 Design Group in Richmond, worked with Holiday Signs on some of the signs at the State Fair of Virginia's Caroline County location. Holiday fabricated and installed the signs.
"They were excellent," Crank said. "They have a tremendous amount of in-house experience that they bring to the table. They make sure that things are implemented the way you have envisioned them."