Sign & Digital Graphics

August '16

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • August 2016 • 23 of Letter Fab LLC. Sciortino has been in the business for 46 years and decided to set up shop in the relatively remote Colorado mountain community of Crested Butte, a long haul from major centers in Denver and Colorado Springs. Still, despite his location, Sciortino says Letter Fab is able to build and dis- tribute channel letters more quickly and more cheaply than most do-it-yourself- ers, with products being shipped to all 50 states, Canada and even the Cayman Islands. He's done well enough to open another shop in his native New Orleans, offering the same value proposition a lit- tle more easily to sign companies in the south. Much of his business now works directly with sign brokers, who work with customers to fulfill sign jobs, but don't do any of the manufacturing or installation themselves. "The problem with doing your own stuff—and I did myself, back in the '70s, when there was no fax, no computers, no wholesalers—is that nowadays a small company can actually make more money by having someone else do the work, with no overhead," he says. "A big com- mercial sign company has all its manu- facturing costs plus a bunch of $180,000 crane trucks, with all of the insurance and overhead, and unless you're making $3 million-$5 million a year, it's hard to turn a profit. So many people in this business don't realize until it's too late that they're not making money." Sciortino cites the example of the Five Guys burger chain—the professional broker handling all of the channel let- ter work for the company's 1,000-plus stores works out of an apartment office in Salt Lake City and does all of his work through wholesalers like Letter Fab. "He sends us the drawings, the per- mitting and information about the local sign companies doing the installs, and we build it to his specs and ship it," he says. "That's $28 million a year in business, and they just use a broker." Same goes for the work he does with the $6-billion-a-year Pattison Sign Group, he says. "I can make a Subway sandwich shop sign and ship it to a local sign company for less than they can make it themselves, because of their overhead," he explains. "We've got a fully automated shop, and I can probably turn out 150 to 200 signs a day, even here in Crested Butte—our machines don't stop. We do everything online, and our signs don't sit around in the warehouse, at all." SDG A small company can actually make more money by having someone else do the work, with no overhead.

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