Abracadabra Works Its Magic for Jimmy Guaco's

An exterior sign and interior digital graphics provide unique flavor for the eatery.
Jan 12 Strictly 1.jpg

Last year, Nelson Lang, founder of the Pita Pit chain that’s popular in many college towns, contacted me about needing signage for a dif-ferent restaurant concept. His sister-in-law, Annette Zupancic, was opening a quick-service Mexican restaurant in Oshawa, ON. The restaurant was christened Jimmy Guaco’s. Lang and Zupancic wanted me to create an original logo that evoked a sense of fun for visitors.
Curb appeal
Using Corel Painter, I created a stylized depiction of a smiling vaquero, complete with sombrero and serape, using Corel Painter 10, and I designed and set the text with CorelDraw 14. I’ve always worked with Corel software, and I’m comfortable with these products.
A pub previously existed at this location, but, given its very bland, bare exterior, I wasn’t surprised it failed. Oshawa’s sign codes only allowed a sign to protrude 6 in. from the building. However, I was able to circumvent this regulation by creating an aluminum awning substructure (from 1 x 1-in.-sq., aluminum tube) to support the sign; lag bolts affix it to the wall. We designed the structure in-house, but I had a structural engineer sign off on my hardware rendering to verify the support would be strong enough to fasten the sign to it. The façade is covered with reclaimed, corrugated-metal or barn-wall flashing, which I obtained from Vic West Steel.
To create the metal backdrop, we MIG-welded the components. Using our MultiCam 1000 CNC router, we fashioned the channel-letter returns from 0.063-in.-thick aluminum. On the primary, routed text, we covered the faces with Interstate Plastics’ 2447 extruded acrylic as a second surface. The bottom cabinet was also CNC-routed.
The secondary text, “Original Bordertown Burritos,” received a second-surface acrylic – this face was CNC-routed using Interstate Plastics’ 2447 acrylic, and decorated with Avery Graphics’ 800 translucent, cast vinyl. The cabinet also served as a secondary raceway for the sign’s wiring. The signs are backlit with US LED white LEDs. A 110V power supply was sufficient for the sign; the LED modules only drew 0.08A of power apiece.
We primed the channel-letter cans with Akzo Nobel’s wash primer, and painted the interior with Akzo Nobel’s Grip-Gard white to optimize brightness. On the cans’ exteriors, we applied Modern Masters’ metal-oxide paint, which quickly provided a copper-colored, rust patina, which suggested the sign had seared in the hot Mexican sun.
We encased the cans within Jewelite’s trim caps, and bonded components together with IPS Corp.’s Weld-On® 16™ low-VOC adhesive. To facilitate installation, we assembled the sign as two pieces in our shop and transported it to the site. We lifted the pieces into place with our Altec bucket truck.
On the side wall away from the main entrance, we created a shadowbox-style sign. The customer asked for a cheap lightbox, but cheap isn’t how we operate. We welded an aluminum box with a 6-in.-deep cabinet within. We CNC-routed open areas for the Jimmy Guaco logo and the top text, “Original Bordertown.” We printed the logo on 3M Controltac film with our Roland SolJet Pro III XC-540 printer with low-solvent inks and applied it to Acrylite® Resist™ SG impact-modified acrylic.
For the “Burritos” vertical letters, we formed 3-D Magic Sculpt, a modeling epoxy that hardens when fully cured. We bonded it to the cabinet backdrop, which was painted with Grip-Gard, using the Weld-On #16 epoxy. The cabinet was illuminated with GE T5 fluorescent tubes.
An inside job
We carried the branding inside with a series of two printed murals and several painted logos. To provide background sheen, the restaurant’s walls were painted with a gloss-finish, latex paint. Using TruStock’s 3-mil, five-year, calendered wallpaper, we printed the murals on our Roland SolJet Pro III on a sepia-tone setting.
To provide a weathered look, we scuffed the prints with sandpaper and applied Modern Masters’ two-
step, crackle finish. To enhance the aged look, we mixed black 1Shot® lettering enamel and thinner and wiped it on the surface with a long-handled squeegee.
To create the watermark logos, we first applied Avery Graphics’ paintmask to the wall. Then, we mixed the walls’ base colors with black, which created subtle graphics that are noticeable, but not loud, and applied the paint mixture with various disposable brushes.
As a courtesy, we provide “Coming Soon” window graphics whenever possible to promote a business during construction or renovation. We printed the graphics on the Tru-Stock film with our SolJet printer.
Our shop’s repertoire has evolved over time from focusing solely on 3-D and monument signs to channel letters and window graphics, among other types. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to craftsmanship. A sign shouldn’t just identify a building’s exterior; it should be a calling card that makes a brand for the customer. Jimmy Guaco’s management has successfully launched the Oshawa location, and is looking to expand. We’re proud of the role we’ve played in its growth.
Equipment and Materials
Acrylic:
Acrylite Resist SG impact-modified acrylic, from Evonik Industries (Parsippany, NJ), (973) 541-8000 or www.evonik.com; 2447 acrylic, from Interstate Plastics (San Leandro, CA), (510) 483-4341 or www.interstateplastics.com
Adhesive: Weld-On® Number 16 acrylic adhesive, from IPS Corp. (Compton, CA), (310) 898-3300 or www.ipscorp.com
Coatings: Wash primer and Grip-Gard white paint, from Akzo-Nobel Sign Finishes (Norcross, GA), (800) 618-1010 or www.signfinishes.com;
1Shot® lettering enamel and paint thinner, from One Shot LLC (Chicago), (773) 646-2778 or www.1shot.com
Channel Letters: Jewelite letter trim, from Wagner Zip-Change (Melrose Park, IL), (800) 323-0744 or www.wagnerzipchange.com
Dimensional Letters: 3-D, shadowbox letters, from Magic Sculpt two-part, hardening epoxy, available through Abracadabra Signs
Frame: Aluminum square tubing, available at building- and metal-supply stores; and MIG-welder, available at hardware- and building-supply stores
Lighting: T5 fluorescent lamps, available at lighting and building-supply stores; white LED modules, from US LED (Houston), (713) 699-4500 or www.usled.com
Painting: 1Shot® lettering enamel and paint thinner, from One Shot LLC (Chicago), (773) 646-2778 or www.1shot.com
Printer: SolJet Pro III XC-540 eco-solvent printer and inks, from Roland DGA Corp. (Irvine, CA), (800) 542-2307 or www.rolanddga.com
Router: MultiCam 1000 CNC router, from MultiCam (Dallas), (972) 929-4070 or www.multicam.com
Software: CorelDraw 14 and Corel Painter 10, from Corel Corp. (Ottawa, ON, Canada); www.corel.com
Vinyl: Avery 800 translucent cast vinyl, from Avery Dennison Graphics Products (Painesville, OH), (800) 282-8379 or www.averygraphics.com; TruStock 3-mil vinyl wallpaper, from Proveer Sign & Graphics (Toronto), (800) 263-1421 or www.proveer.com
More About Steve
Steve Thomas Greer, founder of Abracadabra Signs and Design (Ayr, ON, Canada), began his artistic career as a mural painter who traversed North America developing restaurant signage. Ten years ago, he built a larger shop and began fabricating dimensional signage and graphics. Today, his shop has grown into an eight-employee enterprise that exclusively creates signage and graphics for various restaurant concepts, which includes LED-lit channel letters, monument signage and other sign types. In 2007, Greer’s shop won second place in the Vehicle Graphics category of ST’s International Sign Contest (see ST, April 2007, page 118).
Greer and his wife, Danna, who serves as Abracadabra’s corporate sales director, have two daughters, Gabi and Gracie.