June '22

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IN THE TRENCHES R I C K W I L L I A M S 1 0 G R A P H I C S P R O J U N E 2 0 2 2 G R A PH I C S - PR O.C O M T here were ve of us little boys, from 6 to 10 years old or so, including my three cousins who we were staying with at their Garland, Texas, home. It was summertime, and we slept a bit late, then were just hanging around laughing and teasing each other until we heard voices coming in our direction from down the hall. One was a man's voice, a stranger's voice, and the other was my Aunt Alice, and for a minute or two we could tell they went into another bedroom, and maybe the bathroom. What were they talking about? Where were they going? Where did this stranger come from? en the voices came closer and were right at the bedroom door. Were they coming in here? Yes, they were, and in a ash, ve little boys in their tighty-whities scampered into the only closet in the room, quickly closed the door and got quiet. In a couple of seconds, we could tell Aunt Alice and her guest were in the room, moving around, talking about this thing and that. But surely, they would not come into … and the door knob to the closet was turned, then yanked open, and a group of nearly naked little boys exploded out of the closet in a blur, whizzing around the two adults like bullets, intent on moving faster than the human eye could keep up with. "Oh mercy!" cried the stranger. "ey're comin' out of the woodwork!" My aunt gasped, and then started laughing, and so did the stranger, their voices fading as we made good our escape. And that, friends, was my rst experience with a real estate agent. I don't know what the real estate market was like back in the '60s, when my cousins left Texas for a 10-year stint in North Caro- lina, but I know the real estate market today is crazier than it was back then. Houses go- ing up 30% in a year? Not enough inven- tory to go around, homes selling in a day, and agents making more money on higher prices than ever before. e price of everything is crazy right now, even in the sign business. Some of our mate- rials, what we make signs with, have literally doubled just in the last year. Price increase notices are sent by our vendors just about every week. e cost of aluminum, vinyl, MDO, plastics, fuel, and everything else we buy just makes no sense today. And some of what we need, there just isn't any to buy. But what can we do about any of it? Well, like every other business, we must pass the costs on to our customers and be diligent about it, which we often are not. e lag time costs us money. e lack of supply can cost us jobs. We were on hold for over a month on a screen print job of pipeline warning signs made of prenished aluminum because the double-sided caution yellow aluminum we needed was not to be found. Some of our other materials, particularly laminate mate- rials in certain colors, don't exist anymore either. Or they exist on a slow boat from somewhere that COVID has crippled the crew of. I may have been a boy in the '60s, and a sign maker since the '70s, but I have never seen anything like this. e past couple of years have been the craziest ever, the politics, the pandemic, the shutdowns, and meltdowns. But for- tunately, the sign orders have kept on com- ing, and at least here in Texas, we could stay open and keep working, so we're thankful. Recently, with a crew of just three and a half, we had our best month ever. How did that happen? Of course, adjusted for ination, who knows what it really was. When we buy our next round of supplies or ll the shop trucks with gas, our prots might disappear just as fast as those little boys did way back when. But we'll adjust and go forward. I hope your shop is busy, you're adjusting fast too, and you and your crew have a really good month. We're sure going to try. RICK WILLIAMS owns Rick's Sign Company, a com- mercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business and Sign & Digital Graphics since 1986. Contact Rick via email at STRANGE TIMES AND STRANGERS

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