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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

Fast track

WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter After nine years in the business of making signs, Dan Pulos still gets a thrill when he’s driving along and sees a sign made by his company, Signs 2000. These days Pulos doesn’t have to drive far. His company’s signs are all over greater Los Angeles, at businesses like Carlson Travel Network, L.A. Cellular or many a national fast food restaurant. “I see our work all over the place, and it’s still rewarding to see something and realize it’s ours,” said Pulos, who founded the company in 1990. The Canoga Park-based company makes mostly smaller and medium-sized signs that can be used inside or outside a business, everything from exit signs and company department listings to larger promotional banners and illuminated plastic signs. Pulos prints the company’s signs on a special vinyl film that can then be applied to wood, glass, metal or other surfaces. Signs 2000 also makes decals, including glow-in-the-dark varieties, that can be affixed to cars, trucks, buses or emergency vehicles. Through direct mail marketing and word of mouth, Signs 2000 has seen its revenue double since 1996 to a projected $2.2 million this year. To keep up with the demand for signs, the company is working two shifts, and it is looking for a 10,000 square foot space locally to add to its 4,000 square feet of storefront and production space. The added space will allow Signs 2000 to bid on larger jobs, allowing the company to compete for work outside the L.A. area. In July it opened its first outside sales office, in Denver. “We haven’t had the capacity to go after the size of jobs we’d like, so that’s our next step,” Pulos said. About 40 percent of the customers are from fast food companies, 40 percent are from general retail and the rest are “architecture signs” used in and around buildings. He attracts new business through direct mail campaigns, in which the company invests about $30,000 a year. Through the mailing of postcards and brochures. the company has attracted some of its largest customers. One of Signs 2000’s oldest customers is the Kenneth Management Group Inc., a Woodland Hills-based property management firm. Signs 2000 makes all the signs used at the company’s commercial and residential properties throughout Los Angeles, identifying the managers, rooms, offices and other incidentals such as directions to certain departments. “They always have the leading edge sign computer technology that makes our signs look modern and professional, the way we want,” said Kenneth Becker, the company’s president. While Signs 2000 uses computerized sign making equipment, it is still able to please customers that want an old-style look. “Our restaurants have to have a 1940s look in all respects, and our signs from Signs 2000 keep with the look,” said Alethea Rowe, director of marketing for The Ruby Restaurant Group. Signs 2000 makes all the interior signs for the Newport Beach-based, 28- restaurant Ruby’s diner chain, such as “no smoking” signs, hours of operation, posted menus and even health code signs the eateries are required to post. Rowe said Ruby’s used to have an artist that hand-painted all these signs, but that became expensive. She said that Signs 2000’s work is on par with the hand-painted signs. Pulos started the company about a year after losing his job in 1989 as chief financial officer of a high-tech firm that made light-measuring equipment. He decided he wanted to try running his own business, and looked at lots of small businesses for sale but found none that excited him. Frustrated, he drew up a list of about 18 characteristics he wanted in a business, including business-to-business sales (so the company would be dealing mostly with other professionals) and a small number of employees (so the firm would have a family-type atmosphere.) A former boss suggested he look into the sign industry, given the sector’s fast growth, and Pulos found a business that matched nearly all the criteria he was looking for. He investigated opening a franchise, but decided against it because of the royalty requirements every month and restrictions on the size of his region. For that reason, Pulos is glad he decided to go it alone. “We have customers in other areas of the country, and we couldn’t do that if we were a franchise,” he said. For example, Signs 2000 makes the car decals and signs for all 30 Malibu Gran Prix race tracks strewn around the country. Pulos said he is expanding in part to keep ahead of competition, which has grown substantially since he opened eight years ago. The company has 20 full-time employees, five of which have been there for at least six years. In 1990, he was the only sign store near the busy intersection of Sherman Way and Topanga Canyon Boulevard. After a few years, there were five other sign stores within a mile, and now there are three.

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