Sign Expo Canada, Canadian sign company visits recap

Checking in with Kelly Sign Co., Prestige Graphics Inc. and Media Resources Inc. in the Toronto area.
Sign Expo Canada welcome sign by Imagine It (Mississauga, ON, Canada).

Sign Expo Canada, the Sign Association of Canada’s (SAC) national tradeshow, was held over the weekend, and Signs of the Times was fortunate to be on hand for both days of the show. Similar to a smaller-scale version of ISA and SGIA’s yearly expos, Sign Expo Canada attracted attendees from the US, Canada and other regions of the globe to the International Centre, a convention complex located in Mississauga, ON, which is stationed about a 40-minute drive northwest of downtown Toronto.

The show floor contained many of the sign and graphics industries’ heavy hitters, and several of these companies had their latest offerings on display. Some companies built on releases from the ISA Expo; others had released new products in recent months with an eye on the fall tradeshow season.

In addition to bouncing around from booth to booth, there was plenty else to take in: multiple wrap competitions – the contest I witnessed was a real nail-biter, with all four competitors in close concert until the final seconds – as well as attendee cash drawings and screenings of the documentary The Signmakers of Montreal. A special shout-out to SAC’s Young Professionals Network, who welcomed me with open arms at their reception following the show’s first day.

Apart from the show, I was also able to visit three sign companies in the Greater Toronto Area…

A portion of the Sign Expo Canada show floor at the International Centre.
A portion of the Sign Expo Canada show floor at the International Centre.

Kelly Sign. Co

Russell Kelly has seen just about it all in his time running Kelly Sign Co. (Weston, ON, Canada). Now in its 36th year, Kelly Sign’s bread-and-butter has been intricate hand-drawn goldleaf signage and decorative glass. Russell Kelly used to have around 20 employees performing a wide range of tasks in the company’s 10,000-sq. ft. facility. In our November 1994 issue – (see ST, November 1994, page 112) – Kelly said he had as many as 22 people gilding for him to fulfill a massive job for Ontario Store Fixtures Inc.

Now, Kelly is down to five full-time employees, but Kelly Sign has survived rapid changes in the industry by developing and maintaining clients in niche markets where its employees’ versatile skill sets can be utilized. “We can do things other people can’t do because of our experience,” Kelly said.

For example, Firkin Group of Pubs, a chain of English-themed bars, is a longtime client of Kelly Sign. Firkin recently embarked on a stark redesign of its pubs, a complete departure from how Kelly Sign had been designing Firkin’s signage for years. And yet, Firkin stayed true to Kelly Sign – and the latter delivered, modernizing Firkin’s theme with detailed signage and graphics.

Media Resources Inc.

Keith Edwards joined Grant Sign Services in 1971 as an installer, four years after Grant was founded by his older brother. Now, Edwards is CEO and has helped oversee the company's – since rebranded as Media Resources (Oakville, ON, Canada) – substantial expansion in the sign industry.

Edwards bought Grant Sign from outside interests around 2000, and a company once focused on sign installation has expanded into large-format printing, manufacturing of digital LED displays, 3D fabrication (foam and printing), and performs jobs not only throughout the US and Canada, but South America as well.

A walk through Media Resources’ home base in Oakville reveals the company’s vast reach in the industry. In one corner, multiple large-format printers ready to process billboard-sized substrates; in another, 3D-fabricated projects awaiting shipment; and in another, the company’s specially-engineered VISIONiQ LED displays enduring rounds of testing. Outside, a large portion of Media Resources’ 100-plus-strong army of install trucks.

Edwards was quick to deflect attention to his team – which is 270 employees strong now – and noted that Media Resources has benefited from investment in internal research and development, and from work with sign companies across North America. “We don’t compete with sign companies – we partner with them,” Edwards said.

Prestige Graphics Inc.

Not far from Kelly Sign Co. is Prestige Graphics Inc. (Woodbridge, ON, Canada), an outfit that owner Sebastiano Gallo describes as a “one-stop kind of shop.”

There’s a heavy focus on printing, particularly of the large-format variety with the shop’s Mimaki CJV-160 eco-solvent printer/cutter. Prestige also engages in digital printing (corporate-based items like stationary, business cards and letterheads), offset printing (large orders of magazines, calendars, etc.) and variable data printing (certificates, mailing campaigns).

This versatile shop also does a lot of work with hospitals and long-term care facilities; I actually interrupted Gallo’s work on one of these projects after I essentially showed up on his doorstep asking if I could look around. In spite of his tight schedule, Gallo graciously accepted my request, and for that, I am thankful.


*Below is a gallery of images from Sign Expo Canada, courtesy of the Sign Association of Canada.

Signs of the Times November 2018

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