Makers of Tomorrow: Alex Perry

The indefatigable head of Right Way Signs is also an advocate for fair sign permitting.
Makers of Tomorrow: Alex Perry

Alex Perry

Age: 38

Job: CEO, Right Way Signs (Chicago)

After work: Perry is a family man first, but also cedes some of his free time to playing ice hockey and restoring a 1968 Ford Bronco.

Quote to know: “It’s a rare case when I’m not involved in something [at Right Way]. If I don’t know about it, I feel very left out.”

Catch Alex Perry if you can. Seriously, try it. But unless you’re comfortable waking up at 3:30 a.m. each workday, operating a burgeoning sign company in America’s third-largest city, tirelessly advocating for more efficient sign permitting and raising three children under five-years-old (with number four on the way), you probably can’t keep up. “I do my best thinking in those early hours before anyone else gets to work,” Perry said.

Perry still remembers the smell of 1 Shot from his father’s signpainting shop, where by age nine he was taking phone messages from his father’s clients. Perry went to work for his father after college, but eventually left for a job with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. For eight years, Perry – who has a political science degree from Northwestern – ground away, striving to promote a pro-small business agenda. Perry rose fast and acquired a corner office with a view of the Chicago River. And then he got bored, a restless, imaginative mind caged by policy gridlock. “Every time I injected some creativity into this nonprofit group with a Board of Directors, it always got shut down,” he said.

Right Way Signs began in 2012 as a retirement project for Perry’s father, but soon evolved into his own second full-time job. After working at the chamber by day and at Right Way by night (and weekends), Perry resigned from the chamber in 2014 to focus on Right Way. The company’s early efforts centered on signpainting and murals, but have since expanded into designing, fabricating and installing all types of custom signage, including neon. “Neon ties into this handcrafted sense of nostalgia, even for the next generation that didn’t grow up with neon,” Perry said. “It is something that sticks out above and beyond any other sign type.” Right Way averages over 80 sign projects a month, with Perry touching each one via creative direction, design, fabrication, installation or project management.

Perry also collaborates with the Illinois Sign Association and the International Sign Association to advocate for fair and streamlined sign permitting in Chicago. He writes letters to candidates for mayor and city council on behalf of the sign community. “It takes six to eight months, on average, to get a sign permit in Chicago,” Perry said. “There are a lot of stakeholders involved, but none of them are talking to each other.” Given his history and work ethic, who wants to doubt Perry’s ability to make an impact?

Signs of the Times September 2019

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