putting the brakes on their business, we started looking for other ways to generate revenue so we could keep our staff fully employed,” said Scotty Hager, a partner at Image360-RVA on Dabney Road in Henrico. Image360 and other local sign companies began creating custom acrylic sneeze guards, face shields, floor decals and signs explaining health precautions or announcing updated hours and services. By adjusting to meet their clients’ new needs, local sign businesses were not only able to keep their doors open and keep nearly all of their employees on the payroll, but they’ve helped other businesses remain open in a limited capacity. “We’ve been really busy ever since,” Hager said. Rob White’s four FastSigns franchise locations in the Richmond area first began selling products to help local hospitals prepare for COVID-19 when orders from the company’s larger clients slowed down. In addition to signs, FastSigns made intubation boxes to protect health care workers. “We used the same machines and the same materials we used for the safety shields, but instead of a sign, we were making a box with certain specifications,” said White, who owns FastSigns locations in Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond and a central production center in eastern Goochland County. Now, FastSigns is producing signs to help businesses reopen safely and communicate updates with customers. Joe Coleman, the co-owner of JoMoCo Studio on Staples Mill Road in Henrico, said signs show customers that businesses are open and in compliance with state guidelines. “The idea is that people will be able to come back into these businesses and feel safe,” White agreed. “So we try to help our clients to communicate what they’re doing to protect their customers and employees.” One of the biggest challenges businesses face as they reopen is communicating to customers that they’re open and taking proper safety precautions, said Barry N. Moore, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia. “Business owners and managers are worried that the public will still stay away and that people will assume they’re still going to be closed, so nobody shows up. It’s going to take a while to get the consumer confidence back,” he said. When state guidelines change, businesses need different signs, Coleman said. The orders keep rolling in. Image360’s employees have been coming in early and staying late some days to manage the demand, Hager said. “It’s a different kind of work, but our numbers are fairly flat, whereas otherwise we’d be down substantially,” he said. “Because we’ve been making floor decals, acrylic barriers and directional signs, it has filled in where the regular day-to-day business has declined.” The demand for other types of yard signs and banners has increased, too, White said. Customers have ordered more signs and banners than usual to celebrate college and high school graduations and Mother’s Day because restrictions have limited gatherings. These orders are keeping White’s FastSigns franchises very busy, but they don’t generate as much revenue as the orders they normally receive from larger clients, he said. OOO Sales at sign and banner businesses have been ramping up to at least pre-pandemic levels as businesses continue to reopen across the country, said Burke Cueny, vice president of marketing and communications for Alliance Franchise Brands’ sign division. Alliance Franchise Brands is the parent company of several national sign production chains, including Image360, which has two locations in the Richmond area. OOO Sneeze guards have been in high demand, and the acrylic needed to make sneeze guards SIGNS, Page D12
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