ABOVE: The Sign Shop is located on Eastway Drive in Troutman.
INSET: Aaron and Carrie Larson started the business after losing their jobs during the recession.
Sign Shop receives Organization of the Year award
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council chose the Sign Shop, owned and operated by Carrie and Aaron Larson, as the Organization of the Year during its April meeting. The Larsons will receive the honor at Thursday’s council meeting.
The Larsons began the business in 2008 after Aaron was laid off from his job with a racing team and Carrie lost her real estate position as the recession grew. “I looked at Carrie and said, ‘Let’s find something else to do,’ " Aaron said.
When trying to get decals cut over the years, Aaron was frustrated that local sign shops required weeks to do the job at outrageous costs. Several of his friends had sign shops back in Iowa, so Aaron “knew enough to be dangerous. I looked and her and said, ‘Let’s open a sign shop.’ There was obviously a need with these wait times.”
In a leap of faith, the pair bought vinyl, a computer, and a printer and signed a three-year lease on a space near Dominos, using nearly all of their savings. “We just had to jump in and swim. Sometimes there isn’t a safety net. You just have to make it work,” he said.
“My Midwestern work ethic helps,” Aaron added. “Our whole family is made up of farmers who work from sunup to sundown.”
Aaron prides himself on his quick, accurate service and the higher quality materials that he uses to meet clients’ needs. “A lot of the other shops do not seem very hungry. I can guarantee you that my material is way better, my print is way better."
Aaron also has to educate customers occasionally about the poor quality of materials and workmanship on cheaper printing offered on many internet sites. “The last thing I want is for people to come in here and me produce something cheap and quick, and then a week later people say, ‘Oh man. Where did you get that done? Well, I’m not going there,’ ” added Aaron.
The busy shop produces custom banners, T-shirts, hats, stickers, and business cards. They also have recently gotten into the trophy business, but they are not looking to expand the business too much since the Larsons enjoy being in their own little world where they can pick and choose their projects now.
The Larsons bought their current building on Eastway Drive and moved the business almost four years ago. “The initial investment is more, but we are paying less per month, and it’s equity, it’s ours. We have exceeded my expectations for the business, which is great,” he said.
Both from small towns in Iowa, the Larsons arrived in 1998 and appreciate the small-town atmosphere and charm of Troutman in the midst of the larger cities surrounding it. “We have four kids, three under the age of six, so it’s nice to be able to work hard, go home a few blocks down the road, and spend time with the kids," Aaron said.
Coming from tiny Geneva, Iowa, with a population of 100, Carrie says that Troutman seems big to a farm girl like her. “But it’s still small enough. Being able to know people and work with people you know keeps us here,” she said.
The sense of community is important to Carrie, too. “Everybody looks out for each other and has each others’ backs.”
The Larsons also noted the positive changes and growth that have come in their years here, from the park to the greenway to the numerous new housing developments, but they do worry about the resources, particularly the police officers, becoming overburdened.
“Troutman is coming along, and our neighbors are great,” Aaron added.