Graphics Gallery, a West-end printer of signs and displays, closed earlier this month after 23 years in business. In February 2009, the company grabbed media attention by distributing signs to local businesses that read: “We heard about the recession and we decided not to participate.” (You can read that story here.)
Steve Samuel, founder and co-owner of the company, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday. Samuel now works for Worth Higgins & Associates, a commercial printing firm in Richmond.
Benny Bowman, chief operating officer for Worth Higgins, said his company jumped at the chance to hire Samuel after Graphics Gallery shut down.
“I’ve known Steven since the 1980s and he has always provided service and quality. What he says he is going to do, he does,” Bowman said.
Bowman said the company had already acquired a similar type of wide format printer that Graphics Gallery used and had planned to enter that segment of the industry. In addition to Samuel, Bowman said he hired a few other employees from Graphics Gallery. The company had around 20 employees.
Wayne Nystrom, Graphics Gallery’s president and CEO, could not be reached for comment.
The sudden closure of Graphics Gallery has sent its clients to other graphics firms in town. The company produced high quality signs and banners for companies, universities, museums and trade shows. Past clients included the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institute, Ukrop’s, and the Richmond Folk Festival, according to the company’s website.
Noreen Louthan, owner of Frontline Exhibits Plus said her company has picked up three new clients.
“Everyone is shocked they closed their doors,” Louthan said.
Louthan said demand for her company’s services has been picking up lately.
“We are now doing three times the business we did during the last two years,” she said.
Acorn Sign Graphics also has filled some of the void left by Graphics Gallery.
“We had a collegial relationship prior to their closing down and sometimes partnered on projects,” Gillispie said.
Gillispie said Graphics Gallery was in the midst of doing work for the recently held Richmond Folk Festival when they decided to shut down.
“That work went to several places so that event could come off smoothly, so we provided quite a lot of signs for that event,” Gillispie said.
Gillispie also sat down with Graphics Gallery’s owners to discuss the possibility of absorbing the firm, but decided it wasn’t the right move.
“They were looking for an alternative to having to close their doors; they truly wanted to have a transition that would better sever their clients,” Gillispie said.
Gillespie said while the economy is still rough, Acorn Signs is performing better than it did last year.
“We attribute that to happy customers and diversity in our clients. [Our base] is a little broader than Graphics Gallery, which was a little more specialized than we are,” she said.
Acorn Signs primary business comes from making architectural signs for use inside and outside of buildings for a wide variety of different sectors.
Louthan and Gillespie both said that Graphics Gallery leased its high-end printing equipment, which in addition to Class A office space, created too much overhead during the slowdown.
“There is lots of business out there now,” Louthan said, “I don’t think they were able to hold on long enough to get it, even though I heard it was picking up for them.”