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Local firm capitalizing on printing technology

January 24th, 2007:

Dave Hall, Windsor Star

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Almost 50 years after opening up shop in the basement of a Riverside home, a local sign company has invested heavily in its future while pumping out sales in excess of $1 million annually.

Purchasing a Japanese-made Mimaki JV5 solvent inkjet printer for $60,000 will enable Superior Signs to turn out five-foot wide digital high resolution outdoor signs "faster, better and cheaper," said Tom Minkewich, whose late father Anthony established the business in 1959.

One of only five in Canada, the Mimaki replaces three Arizona printers at five times the speed and with improved high resolution quality that "will allow us to quote on larger jobs because it has made us more efficient," said Minkewich.

"It also enables us to print signs which illuminate beautifully at night instead of looking washed out once daylight passes," said Minkewich. "You just prepare the software files, load up the machine and it pumps out signs all day.

" Starting out as one of a half-dozen sign companies in the city, Minkewich said Superior now has about 40 rivals all fighting for a piece of the sign business.

Minkewich said "you just have to work a little harder because while sales have been growing steadily over the last dozen years, the margins are smaller because everyone wants you to be able to supply product at less expensive prices."

It's also forced Minkewich to be more pro-active in letting customers know what he can do for them.

"My dad was old-school," said Minkewich. "We were probably the last sign company in the city to get a computer and we didn't even have a sign on our own building for the first 20-odd years.

"Twenty years ago, we were still hand-brushing signs but those days are gone and the biggest change in our business now is the switch to digital."

For Minkewich, whose company handles both screen and digital printing, the biggest challenge is attracting skilled help because "there are no schools teaching what we do so it's all on-the-job training.

"We're fortunate in having long-time employees but they're tough to replace because you have to be computer-literate these days in addition to having a graphics background," said Minkewich.

In addition to large billboards and other signage, Windsor's largest commercial screen printer also handles a large percentage of the real estate sign market as well working closely with local marketing companies.

With housing starts and home sales stagnant in Windsor throughout most of last year, business has slowed down but Minkewich said "it just means you have to work a little harder, widen your horizons and go after different kinds of work."

Last year, Superior handled signage for the city's Super Bowl host committee and provided banners throughout downtown as well as for many of the events at the Cleary International Centre.

The company is located on Janette Avenue.

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Written By: The Windsor Star
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