Sign Depot's Restaurant-Sign Program Inspires Patrons to Raise a Glass

Program features retro-style signs, murals

The Sign Depot has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with The Charcoal Group, a Kitchener-based entity that owns seven upscale restaurants in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, ON. Like us, they strive to be unique and differentiate themselves from competitors. Over the years, we’ve created a diverse array of signage for their restaurant properties.
Most recently, The Charcoal Group’s management hired us to develop a sign program for the Cambridge location of their Beertown Public House (there’s also a location in Waterloo). Because of its location – Beertown is located on a heavily traveled roadway, with numerous competing restaurants surrounding it – the sign package had to stand out. And, dull signage wouldn’t be appropriate for such a unique space. The Beertown concept merges the traditional public alehouse with the modern, trendy bistro.
The large windows, which bathe the restaurant in natural light, and the handsome woodworking are reminiscent of a traditional pub. Unique fixtures, such as exposed bulbs that hang overhead, and beer-barrel replicas, which serve as novel, supersized can lights, provide a counterbalancing, edgy feel.
To reflect this contrast, we created two seemingly disparate signs for Beertown: a set of exposed channel letters and a mural. We thought both elements fit the restaurant’s new-school revamping of the old-school, public-house concept.
The Beertown exposed-face sign reflected the logo developed by The Charcoal Group for its aggressive, social-media promotional campaign. Cricket Design, a Toronto design firm, developed the sign's architecture. Manipulating the logo into a 3-D sign was necessary to make it an effective on-premise advertisement. We converted the flat logo into a dimensional sign with ArtCAM
Channeling your energies
We subcontracted the channel letters’ fabrication to Advanced Lighting (Concord, ON, Canada), a wholesale provider – they also assisted with their installation. Advanced fabricated the 18-in. to 3-ft.-tall “Beertown” channel letters from 0.106-in.-thick aluminum. To operate your signshop successfully, it’s best to focus on what you’re best equipped to fabricate in-house, and partner with other, carefully vetted shops to build the rest.
In keeping with the restaurant’s rustic character, we aged the “Public House” channel letters. To do this, we applied a black basecoat, and then added a special, metallic paint that contains flecks of iron. Then, we brushed on a rust activator, which quickly reacted to the iron particles and created a greenish, antiqued finish.
To enhance this aged look, we secured the channel letters to backer panels made from COR-TEN, which comprises several steel alloys that gradually oxidize to create a rusty patina. The backer created a nice contrast to the antique-finish letters, and they complemented each other well to create the illusion that the sign had proudly resided there for 50 years or more.
We wanted the sign’s illumination to resemble the face of a traditional marquee. However, the cost of frequently changing incandescent bulbs, plus their relatively high energy consumption, would be cost-prohibitive. So, instead, we opted for Allanson Stormtight LED modules. They provide illumination comparable to the 15W, incandescent-chaser bulbs traditionally used for marquee signage, but the modules only draw 2W. We encased the modules within commercial bulbs.
Wall talk
Finally, we needed to decorate one big, freshly painted, white wall. We wanted it to appear to be as well-aged as the channel-letter sign and its backer, yet look clean as well. Tapping into the renewed interest in vintage soda brands and bottles, our design team developed a retro-looking, bottlecap design that would be painted on the exposed-brick wall. To create the outline, we cut stencils from Coroplast® corrugated-plastic panels on our AXYZ 6010 4 x 8-ft., CNC router. After having painted the mural’s basecoat with a china-bristle brush and acrylic-latex paint, we taped the stencils to the wall, and spraypainted over them with Krylon spray paint.
After we’d sprayed on the colors, we brushed on different tones of gray to give added texture to the bottlecap. For added pop, we painted a red star that complements the more subdued bottlecap.
To give the mural an aged appearance, we applied a faux finish of cream, light-brown and gray tones with a rag. The mural served as a compelling focal point that balances the exposed-bulb sign quite well.
It’s always gratifying to work with clients who strive for quality and attention to detail in their work, and who appreciate it in others. These types of clients will push you to do your best work, and will give you a prominent forum to showcase your work. We enjoyed a starring role in a video The Charcoal Group produced and published on its social-media outlets to announce the opening of the Beertown Cambridge location.
So much of your shop’s success hinges on your ability to develop and maintain relationships. You have to be willing to put your customers’ needs first, and listen when they convey an idea or concern. We’re proud of our ongoing relationship with The Charcoal Group, and look forward to years of mutual growth.

Equipment and Materials
Channel Letters: Channel-letter fabrication subcontracted to Advanced Lighting (Concord, ON, Canada), (905) 669-8181 or  
Coatings: Modern Masters artists’ acrylics, from Modern Masters Inc. (Sun Valley, CA), (800) 942-3166 or; iron-reactive paint, available from Modern Masters Inc.
Lighting: Stormtight, 2W bulbs, from Allanson (Toronto), (800) 668-9162 or  
Materials: Coroplast® corrugated-plastic panels, from Coroplast USA (Vanceburg, KY), (606) 796-0334 or; COR-TEN® patina-finish steel, from Western States Decking Inc. (Phoenix), (855) 426-7836 or  
Router: Four x 8-ft., CNC routers, from AXYZ Inc. (Burlington, ON, Canada), (800) 361-3408 or  
Software: 3-D rendering, from ArtCAM (Salt Lake City), (877) 335-2261 or