Time of the signs
Julie’s Sign Shoppe has been creating signs for businesses since 1999 when owner Julie Wilson started the business out of her garage. Today, she designs, creates and maintains signs for thousands of clients in northern Nevada.
Her business makes a wide range of electrical and non-electrical signs for both indoor and outdoor use.
“Signs are the first things that people see when they look at a business,” Wilson said.
And the business is continuing to grow.
Wilson recently purchased a 13,165-square-foot property on 125 East Glendale Ave. in Sparks. The new property will allow the business to move out of its current 4,800-square-foot building on Longley Lane, which it has outgrown.
Wilson used Nevada real estate brokerage firm Miller Industrial Properties to help find the new property. The location was previously an auto repair shop making it necessary to renovate the building prior to Julie’s Sign Shoppe occupying it.
The cost of the building and the renovation is estimated to cost $1.6 million dollars.
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Wilson has been in the sign business her whole life.
“I grew up in the business, learning from my dad,” Wilson said.
Her father was a commercial artist who started his own sign business. A true family enterprise, Wilson’s mother did the bookkeeping and Wilson and her four brothers and sisters helped make signs and pitched in with the business. This upbringing taught her not only how to make signs but the operations of a business.
She later went on to become the manager of three Fast Signs in Salt Lake City.
“All I knew was how to make signs,” Wilson said.
She took what she had learned from her father and as a manager to start her own sign business. In 1999, Wilson opened Julie’s Sign Shoppe in Reno from her garage. She knew that owning and building up her business would take a lot of work and dedication.
“I do not remember the last time that I did not work a 12-16 hour day,” Wilson said.
In 2003, Wilson brought Christine Harkness on as a co-owner of the business and moved to an 800-square-foot building.
Today, Julie’s Sign Shoppe has a wide range of clients including St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, the Bosma Business Center, the University of Nevada, Reno and many other businesses in the Reno area. The business recently worked on making the hearts for Southwest Airlines, which are located in the terminal of the airport. The sign business currently has 12 employees.
“When we bring on employees it is like they are family,” said Wilson.
And many of the employees are family. Wilson’s husband, Kim Wilson, works operating the crane and other machinery to make the signs. Their three children have or are currently working at the business and Harkness’ son, Trevor Burns, works as a part of the installation team. Julie’s daughter Maryann plans to take over the business after her mother retires.
She knows that sometimes there are other Reno sign businesses that can do a project less expensively, but Wilson takes pride in using quality material to make signs that will last.
“I won’t use the cheap products,” said Wilson.
The business does much more than outdoor business signs. They can create vehicle wraps for cars, boats and airplanes. They also create banners and smaller interior signs and can even design business cards.
“There is not a company that does what we do (in Reno),” Wilson said. “We can design a company’s sign right down to their business cards.”
The business uses state-of–the-art technology to create the signs. The business purchased a $1 million Accu-Bend, a letter cutting and bending machine, several years ago.
“We try to stay on top of it with technology,” Wilson said. “You have to.”
Her more than 30 years of experience in the sign business has allowed her to see the rapid advance in signage materials and technology.
Julie’s Sign Shoppe does not service signs for any of the casinos. According to Wilson, there are several other sign companies in Reno, one being Custom Sign and Crane, which create and maintain signs for many of the local casinos.
The new location will allow Wilson and Harkness’s business to continue to grow the business.
“I love what I do,” Wilson said. “I really love this community and I love to see people who start up businesses.”
The renovations for the new location are scheduled to be completed before the end of the year.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.