Forever Young: Young Signs Celebrates More than 90 Years
Young Signs | Ashland, Kentucky
After more than 90 years in business, you’d think family-owned Young Signs in Ashland, Kentucky would be ready to sit back and rest on their laurels. Nothing could be further from the truth. Young Signs continues to lead the market with innovative technology and applications that keep their clients coming back for more.
We spoke with Nat Handloser, Graphic Supervisor at Young Signs, about how the shop stays relevant and responsive in the face of today’s economic challenges, and what trends he’s seeing for the graphics market going forward.
First, please briefly tell us how Young Signs began?
Nat Handloser: W.B. Young founded his sign shop in 1930. Talented and disciplined, he was skilled at producing quality work. W.B. used quills to hand letter vehicles and ladders to install building signs. Today, Young Signs is carried on by his son, Dave Young. Now we produce signs using digital printers and routers, and install them with bucket trucks and cranes, but our commitment to exceptional quality remains.
Mr. Young moved his shop from its original location in 1961, building a new facility. Since then, the business has acquired adjacent properties, allowing extra space for fabrication, office space, and additional vehicle bays.
“Our clients want their graphics to communicate their brand’s personality ....Fortunately, we can match almost any tone with the expanded color gamut on the VG2”
What is Young Signs like today?
Vehicle graphics and custom signage are the new focus for the business, along with installations and sign maintenance for national accounts. We are supported by fifteen employees with boom trucks that reach as high as 156 feet, bucket trucks and assorted construction equipment, along with state-of-the art digital printing technology. This allows us to work all over our tri-state area of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
We provide signage for a lot of local business as well as contract work for other sign companies out of our area, and for large national chains such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail stores. We also do quite a bit of work with local construction firms and industrial corporations.
We are currently looking to expand our vehicle and graphics area. We have two bays for wrapping and are looking to add a couple more along with a large bay or covered area for wrapping larger vehicles.
What products does your graphics department offer?
Our graphics products include commercial and personal vehicle wraps, full and partial vehicle wraps, full color-change wraps, stripes, chrome deletes and customization. We also offer architectural wraps, exterior and interior wall wraps, window perf, floor graphics and even graphics for sidewalks and parking lots.
How do you select your digital print technology? What features are most important to you?
Young Signs purchased its first digital printer, a Roland DG 64-inch printer/cutter in 2009, because of its ability to print on white and metallic. That was our only printer until 2020, when we had more to print than we could keep up with.
To increase our production capability, we added the Roland DG TrueVIS VG2-640 64-inch printer/cutter. We like the VG2’s vibrant color, its print speed and the take-up reel. We run Cyan, L. Cyan, Magenta, L. Magenta, Yellow, Black, L, Black, and Orange inks. I really like how the orange boosts the color.
We still utilize the older Roland DG printer, and we have a 30-inch Roland DG plotter as well. I have used the older printer’s metallic ink quite a bit, including on several vehicle wrap projects. In fact, we recently did a wrap for High Performance Computer where all the logo and circuitry designed in the wrap was printed in metallic silver, which added a very cool effect.
For your wraps business, are you doing a lot of fleet work?
We do quite a lot of fleet work for the local hospital, medicinal transport company, jail, excavating companies, landscape companies, and restaurants including Chick-Fil-A, Slim Chickens, Moe’s, and Penn Station.
We have also been seeing an increase in requests for wrapping oversized vehicles lately, including a full wrap on a 35-foot RV, a tanker wrap, several large wrecker truck wraps, a semi-trailer, and some large box trucks.
Are you seeing more requests for personal vehicle wraps?
We started offering vehicle wraps in 2018, and orders began coming in immediately. The number of vehicles we wrap has increased every year.
At first, we did a few personal wraps, but the majority were on commercial vehicles. Once the word got out, we started to see a lot more requests for personal wraps and color- change wraps. Soon we had way more requests for personal wraps than for commercial wraps, without losing the amount of commercial we did.
We have wrapped boats, cars, transit vans, large RVs, box trucks, golf carts, side-by-sides, Jeeps, tankers, and a whole lot of muscle/sports cars. We have also wrapped interior and exterior walls, floors, furniture, cabinets, a toilet, and gaming items.
Any recent jobs that really stand out in your mind?
One that comes to mind is the Pathways RV wrap. We had to do all the hardware and badge removal, the printing, and even some last-minute sketching and installation, in a little over a week.
A good portion of the wrap was all black with some wording. On the back, they wanted an image on each side that would fade into the black. We didn't want to take the time, energy and ink to print all the black, so we used more than a roll of Avery gloss black vinyl. I used the Roland DG Color swatches on Illustrator to match the black in the fade and applied the gradient as a layer over top of the raster image. It turned out great!
Why do you think your clients choose Young Signs?
Young Signs offers a wide range of signage advertising products, which means our clients can get all their needs met in one place. We are quick and we offer really high quality. There is a creative and competitive standard at Young Signs that we work very hard to uphold.
How did your company do during the pandemic shutdown?
When everything got shut down, we had a month or so where things got pretty slow. We had just added our router, so we began making custom sneeze guards for many of the local schools and businesses.
It didn't take long for some business to start trickling back in, and then all at once it exploded. Everyone decided to redo their signs, refresh the interiors of restaurants, and wrap their vehicles using the stimulus money. We got absolutely slammed! Since then, our business has come back stronger than ever.
What do you see for the future of your business? Any trends you are spotting or areas you'd like to expand into?
We’ve certainly seen some new trends emerging in vehicle graphics. Our product offerings now include two-tone and textured wraps, as well as textured wrap and tinting for headlights and taillights. We also provide vinyl embossing.
We’ve also seen a focus on color management in digital graphics overall. Our clients want their graphics to communicate their brand’s personality, and vibrant colors are often part of the designs these days. Fortunately, we can match almost any tone with the expanded color gamut on the VG2.
Paint protection film is our next venture. We want to continually push our creativity, skills, and products to the next level, while maintaining the reputation for quality we’ve earned over the years. The abilities of our talented team allow us to keep doing high quality work, and thanks to cutting-edge devices like our TrueVIS VG2, we have the technology needed to stay at the forefront.