Interview With: Alice Miller & Matthew Kalyani, Owners
How did you get into the sign business?
My brother Oscar purchased the business in the late 80′s from the original owner, who established the business as a wholesale Neon Shop in the late 1960s. At that time, Matthew was employed to as an Apprentice Glass Bender.
In the early 1990’s Matthew and Partner Alice purchased the business from Oscar when he decided to pursue another career. At that time there were just the two employees: Matthew, Alice and the shop dog. Matthew was the primary contact for the sales and he would bend the glass while Alice would bombard and handle the office duties.
What is your favorite kind of sign work? Why?
Our favorite type of sign work has become the development and sale of LED Signs. Over the years this technology has grown popular and has become so easy to program and very affordable. Sunny Neon Inc., now has a sister company “SunRise LED Inc,” which solely concentrates on Research, Development, Manufacturing and Distribution of LED Signs around the world.
What types of work do you do?
Sunny Neon has evolved well beyond just a neon shop. We now retail and wholesale any type of sign imaginable. Our more popular requests have veered away from Neon. Now the most of our sales are made in LED, 3D Letters, monument signs, big format full color printing, banners and posters.
We now have corporate accounts where we produce a full spectrum of signs. Working with the architect we will manufacture and install all signs at a retail location from the exterior to interior retail marketing.
What are your biggest challenges in the sign business, day to day?
We face the same challenges as all small businesses today – “the Economy”. Last year we suffered the worst year since we’ve owned the business. We rely on businesses opening, expanding, and increasing awareness of their business with signs.
We are very fortunate to have some excellent, loyal employees. We’ve sold our boom-trucks and no longer have in-house service and installation personnel due to the unaffordable disability Insurance. We also find it very difficult to find reliable/affordable sources for installation and service calls.
Do you have any funny customer stories?
We had a customer Dental office that had a plywood sign with a spotlight, and they asked us to replace it with Channel Letters. Since they already had the spot light we didn’t check for power but in installation we found out that the power provided was with 70 feet of extension cord. When we said that providing the power is the customer’s responsibility, the customer hired an electrician and deducted the cost from our invoice. We took him to court but we lost! I’m not sure if this is funny but it is a good experience for others to do good surveys and mention that power is provided by the customer!
What’s your favorite thing about the sign business? Your least favorite?
My favorite thing about the sign business is the creativity. There are so many types of signs and so many ways to use them in creative ways. It’s always a changing industry, with new technology and applications.
My least favorite now is how we mirror the exact effects of the Economy. If businesses are not moving/expanding/growing, our business is a direct reflection.
What equipment / software / materials do you work with every day that you couldn’t live without?
SEIKO Large format printer with FlexiSign and of course our EstiMate Software and QuickBooks.
How do you use EstiMate on a day to day basis? What impact has it had on your operation?
We use EstiMate to price out: large format printing, channel letters, retail items, and wholesale items. EstiMate has truly been a key to our success. It has given us a proven tool to price signs in a consistent manner. It’s enabled us to add staff and allow them to produce estimates for projects immediately.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the sign business?
Make clear as much as you can on a project with the customer approving everything in writing. Also… don’t bother… between the taxes and overhead it will SUCK YOU DRY.
If you wanted to be known in the industry for one thing, what would that be?
That we produce quality signs at affordable prices. We do not want to sell to a customer just once; we want to be their sign shop for life. We treat our customers with respect and our wish is to serve them well with a sign that will serve them well in return.
Where do you want your business to be in one year? Five?
Over the next year we are looking for some recovery in the Economy and the general sign business; however in five years we feel the sign business will be a whole new ball game. We plan to put our focus on technology – LED, LCD, 3-D.
Tell us something personal about yourself – your hobbies, interests?
For Matthew he would say his primary hobby is his work. He loves to build and create success. But, unfortunately he has also discovered golf about two years ago and now is a fanatic. Alice has played golf for years and urged Matthew to learn to play. He finally gave in when she bought him a set of golf clubs for Christmas two years ago.