Pick a sign, any sign, in the Asheville area. Odds are it was crafted by FASTSIGNS. With 30-40 designs whisking through the production studio each day and 10,000 businesses actively using the shop’s services, the Patton Avenue location has played a large hand in shaping the messages of Asheville, creating about 143,000 signs in its 24 years of operation.
“We’ve always been a very prolific shop and Asheville’s always been a strong market. People love to communicate their business,” said Ric Davenport, who swapped his career in healthcare management twelve years ago to become a FASTSIGNS franchise owner. “It’s fun and uplifting, connecting with all the companies. Everyone’s trying to be as creative as possible.”
FASTSIGNS has operated since 1995 in Asheville and is equipped with enough technology and production partners to create and customize a wide variety of signs—from illuminated signs, architectural, digital LED screens, billboards, exhibits and displays, stickers, vehicle graphics, site signs, interior decor graphics, textured art, to nearly any other sign imaginable.
“We have very little pre-made things that we just pull off the shelf and hand to someone. Our forte is not thousands of signs someone could get off Amazon. Nor is it something huge enough to cover the Empire State Building. It’s in between. We create the simple communication that businesses need to communicate among their people, or to customers through packaging, or branding. We work in all kinds of mediums,” said Ric.
The sophisticated technology at the shop, along with the novelty of the projects are two of Ric’s favorite parts of the job.
“We’ve got at least a quarter of a million dollars worth of technology in the center,” he said. “You can find any number of things on the table any day. The novelty for us is that everyone’s signs are a little different. The look and feel of their logos, their text and colors.”
High-quality murals, large interior graphics, and corporate artwork can all be produced on the shop’s large format flatbed printer, which can print up to 26 high-quality, 4 x 8 feet images onto rigid substrates in an hour. Thanks to the high-tech Colex Cutter, multidimensional designs like corporate logos that would be really expensive to cut by hand, can be die cut digitally in a matter of moments. FASTSIGNS’ latex ink printers print on rolls of vinyl and banner materials, often used by companies to wrap a development site fence, vehicles, or large interior graphic images, explained Ric.
“Every year there’s new sign trends, kind of like fashion. Of course in the mountains we’re in love with rugged Stone and Timber structures incorporating native carved woods or illuminated elements too. Over the last few years we’ve been doing a lot of three-dimensional texture printing of map pieces, artwork, and braille signs, and we’ve been creating illuminated push through acrylic signs for storefronts.”
One example of the push through acrylic sign can be seen at RISC Network’s downtown office, where the company’s vertical and illuminated orange sign captures the eye of anyone traveling along Broadway Street. Another great illuminated example is Asheville Women’s Medical Center’s new sign that uses energy-saving LED technology to illuminates a crisp and modern design.
Often times, projects like those are the second highest investment a business will make after the building itself. About 30% of FASTSIGNS’ projects are large signs, while smaller projects make up 70% of production.
“The process of making signs is multitasking on steroids,” Ric joked. “Racing out to talk to a new customer, following up on orders for an ongoing project, or tracking details as the signs are getting installed. Do we have the concept right? Are all the components there? Is it the right color, shape, text? You know, all that.”
“Every customer comes in, they’ve got a dream and a hope for their business they’re trying to communicate…when you come on the inside, you start seeing all the details leading up to making it happen. It opens up a world of materials, fabrication technology and design possibilities.”