SIGNARAMA Detroit Company History
Once upon a time, in a land far… far away…
A great man by the name of Ed Progar (Company Founder) once stopped for lunch with his engineering colleagues across the street from one of the first SIGNARAMA locations to open in Michigan and thought to himself “I could really use a quick sign for a presentation at the office”. He walked in and was absolutely amazed at the SIGNARAMA concept. From start to finish the process was streamlined and very efficient. He began asking about franchise opportunities in the Detroit market.
Ed and his wife Joann had raised an amazing family in Livonia, all children to be very proud of. Ed had the entrepreneurial itch that he just could not avoid, even after a very successful career as an engineer in the Automotive Industry. Together Ed & Joann made the decision in November of 1998 to retire as an engineer from Ford Motor Company and go into business for themselves. They proudly opened up one of the original SIGNARAMA locations in Michigan, based in Madison Heights. This is where the foundation for our incredibly customer service driven sign company was laid. Both Ed and Joann firmly believed (and imparted on their staff) that if you take care of customers they will take care of you. They could not be any more correct!
At the same time in 1998 an enthusiastic and energetic whipper-snapper by the name of Bob Chapa had just moved to Madison Heights to finish his college degree in Architecture. While on the way home from a late night class at Lawrence Technological University he passed by a new sign company with a shiny red “Now Hiring” sign in the window. This sign caught his eye for two reasons… One, it was across the street from the apartment he had just moved into. Two, it was a SIGN company. Bob had sworn that he was done with signs, in fact it was the last place he wanted to work through college. Something drew him in anyway.
There is a little more back story here… Bob Chapa had actually grown up in a family owned sign company based in Waterford, Michigan for most of his childhood. His parents Bob and Marci Chapa had built a very successful business and had not only instilled the value of hard work, but also indirectly taught him all the core basics of the sign business. From vinyl production to large scale fabrication, he had spent years working in the family business in just about every aspect of the company. But this led to the tough decision, Bob was absolutely passionate about pursuing his dreams of becoming an Architect. In fact, it was all he ever wanted to do. Dare he walk in the door and ask for a job application when he was focusing so hard to move his life into another direction?
The obvious answer was yes, and that was a night that changed not only his life… but that of SIGNARAMA Madison Heights.
Ed and Bob hit it off right away, an immediate comfort zone for the two of them. In fact, Bob stayed with Ed late into the night helping to get production caught up. Ed and Joann hired Bob that night as the first production person in their new business. His “can-do” attitude and their service-driven mentality made for a great team.
As a few years passed and the business began to grow, Bob worked through college and eventually did receive his Architecture degree. That is when the tough decision was really in front of him. About to get married, the decision to go off in search of an Architecture position or take a new job offer from Ed as the company Operations Manager. Running the company was an exciting opportunity, and perhaps the best decision Bob ever made (aside from that wedding!).
A few years later Bob and Ed became business partners and purchased that same original Dearborn location that Ed saw while at lunch years prior. This was the beginning of a whirlwind of exciting expansion and growth changes. Bob purchased the Madison Heights location from the Progars completely in 2005, Ed and Joann have since retired and stop in to visit as often as they can. To be very honest, Ed’s golf game seems to keep him busy though!
Bob and his incredible team have taken the company in many directions since 2005. Bob knew right away the value in hiring the best staff available, and was lucky right from the beginning. The early crew was instrumental in the fast growth of SIGNARAMA in the Metro Detroit market.
The first major decision was breaking into the digital printing industry right away, this opened the doors to many possibilities for our clients.
In 2006 SIGNARAMA, Madison Heights went through its most exciting change to date. They began construction on a new Headquarters Building along Stephenson Highway. Moving from 1,200 sq. ft. to 12,000 sq. ft. was a major decision, and one that spurred the company growth curve exponentially. Designing and building a 3,000 sq. ft. showroom with everything from flower gardens with every kind of ground sign, to a full size car wrapped in the lobby, Bob was able to put that design degree to use!
One of Bob’s primary responsibilities is his focus on technology and the impact it can have on the sign industry. Since 2001, Bob and his team have been developing and enhancing an incredibly in depth website to service the Commercial Real Estate Sign Industry. Taking Metro Detroit by storm, it allows Commercial Real Estate firms an online portal answering every imaginable question as they place installation orders. In 2007 this website solution has become a nationwide solution available only to select SIGNARAMA locations in the United States. Bob has been doing consulting work to help others grow this aspect of their business.
The fabrication area has since been filled with various levels of sign equipment. In 2007 SIGNARAMA invested in automated channel letter equipment to better serve Metro Detroit and beyond. The Accu-Bend system and Gerber Sabre Router Table have multiplied the in house capabilities tenfold. This allowed them to be a true full service fabrication company.
In 2008, another very exciting change was taking place. Bob expanded his retail locations and purchased of the Southfield SIGNARAMA location. This has solidified a fantastic footprint in Metro Detroit, allowing the organization to truly become Michigan’s Number 1 sign company.
We are proud to have such a strong customer base AND a fantastic team on board to have helped get SIGNARAMA through the tricky economic times of 2009 and 2010. Our strong presence in the Metro Detroit market and our incredible customers helped us to thrive as we buckled down with the rest of the Michigan small business market. We are proud to have come out of these times stronger than ever!
In 2012, SIGNARAMA made two large changes to stay ahead of the curve so that they could support their clients in Metro Detroit. After much research, they found a new Headquarters facility just 3 miles away from their “home base”, but located directly on I-75 at Rochester Rd. This new location is larger, much better suited for our growing fabrication business and considerably better located for our clients to find us.
The second large change (and perhaps the largest EVER) has been our investment in our new flatbed printer. This printer has completely revolutionized the sign industry, and has allowed us even higher levels of quality control with an amazing leap forward in our production times. We are extremely excited to show our clients what we are capable of in our new home and with our highly upgraded equipment!