J Signs and Graphics

Anticipating Trends with Versatile Printing Equipment

J Signs and Graphics   |   Aberdeen, North Carolina

Sometimes, the question isn’t how do you get a business started, it’s how do you keep one going? Especially when faced with major unexpected events like a pandemic. For answers, we turned to Jeremy White, owner of J Signs and Graphics in Aberdeen, North Carolina. Since 2000, Jeremy has been gradually building his business, one great sign at a time.

We asked Jeremy about what it takes to start up a shop, how to ride out the inevitable storms, and what he does to keep ahead of the trends.

Tell us how it all began.
Jeremy White:  Back in the 1990s, I had worked in Fayetteville for another sign company that was located outside of a print shop. I ended up running the sign shop portion of the business, and when it got slow, I decided to start my own business.

“We run Roland's TR2 inks in both our VGs, which helps with color matching and consistency.”

In 2000, I began J Signs out of my bedroom with a plotter. In 2003, I moved to a 1,000-square-foot storefront, then to a 4,500-square-foot space. Now we’re in a 6,000-square-foot facility located in town that includes 3,000 square feet of workspace with cut tables, open offices, and a showroom area.  In the back, we have 3,000 square feet of garage space, with a 12-foot garage door. The space is about 80 feet deep, so we can pull almost anything into it, including trucks and other large vehicles.

In the beginning, I did everything, but I started out first as a designer. Now, I have two other guys that handle design, along with installers. We have a total of seven employees at the moment.

How did you choose your print production technology?
I worked with the folks at Southeast Sign Supply to select my first printer – a Roland DG VersaCAMM 54-inch printer/cutter. That turned out to be a great recommendation because in addition to high-quality output, the integrated print/cut made my workflow simpler.  

For my next printer, I stayed with Roland DG, purchasing a 54-inch TrueVIS VG-540 printer/cutter. When you have people lined up waiting for your products, you need dependable, quality equipment.  

When the time came to get a newer machine, I went back to Roland DG for its next-generation TrueVIS printer/cutter, the VG2-540.   I really appreciate the wider color gamut and increased speed, along with its cutting accuracy.  We run Roland’s TR2 inks in both our VGs, which helps with color matching and consistency. 

We still use our VersaCAMM, mainly as a plotter. I never thought I would need two printers, but as it turns out, we run both of our machines almost full time, and sometimes overnight. 

To round out our production, we also have a 4’ x 8’ CNC router, a flatbed UV printer, a laser engraver, two channel letter benders and laminators. 

What industries do you serve? 
One of our major customers is a kiosk manufacturer whose clients include many big box retailers like Walmart and Target.  We produce all their graphics, often with very tight turnarounds. We also do a lot of emergency vehicle graphics for the sheriff’s department, and for the local hospitals.  In addition, we make a lot of signs as well as plenty of wraps for retailers, restaurants, and service providers.  

What would you consider to be your shop's specialties? 
One of our specialties is definitely vehicle wraps.  We do partial and full wraps for smaller service companies and for larger ones with fleets ranging up to 35 vehicles.  We’ve probably done more than 1,000 wraps.  A fun vehicle graphics project was wrapping a prototype of a 180SL Mercedes Benz.  We also specialize in channel letter signage.

Can you take us through a typical day?  
Pretty much every day is crazy. We ask our customers for a three-day lead time, but our largest customer produces graphics for kiosks and usually needs their jobs done in one day.  The graphics are meant to go on three or four sides of however many kiosks they are doing that day – which typically means 500-600 graphics that need to be printed, laminated and contour cut per job.

A huge feature for us on our Roland DG printers is that you can change your quantities and nest jobs. The printer adds crop marks on every single line. Where I used to have to stay overnight and hit print again and again, now I can just enter the quantity that we need and let it run unattended. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business? Are you starting to see a return to normal?
We were closed for a week before we determined that our business was considered essential.  We do a lot of emergency vehicle work as well as jobs for the hospital and sheriff’s department. We had a full month’s worth of work when the shutdown hit, but we ended up being just one week behind on delivering our jobs, which was pretty good.  Our business didn’t really slow down because our largest customers were still open.  

What lies ahead for J Signs and Graphics? Are there areas of your business you'd like to expand?
We think that vehicle wraps will continue to grow. If you flood the car with die cuts you could get attention, but vinyl lettering just isn’t catching people’s eye anymore.  Larger towns near us have shops that have been doing full vehicle wraps for some time, but it’s just starting to catch on here.

When your vehicle has a full wrap that’s colorful, whether people want that service or not, that wrap will not only gain their attention, it will continue to stand out in their minds. As far as advertising goes, I don’t think there’s anything you can do that’s better.