When Dave Arber got into business for himself as the owner of Seashore Signs in 2005, the sign-making industry was fueled by a blockbuster real estate market.
That was the bulk of his work then, particularly in the Wildwoods, as real estate agents sought signs of all sizes to sell single family shore houses and units in gigantic new complexes.
“And those orders were coming from agents in almost every office daily — for not just a yard sign but for big project signs where a whole motel had gone down and a new condominium complex was going up,” he said.
But like other business segments that catered to the real estate industry, the sign-making business was hit hard by the recession and its aftermath.
New Jersey lost nearly one-quarter of its sign-manufacturing companies from 2007 to 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns.
Arber, 42, adapted to the change by putting more emphasis on other areas of the business.
“And then of course, 2008, all the real estate stuff just stopped. You kind of have to go after every little bit you can. I started doing more installation work, subcontract work for bigger companies,” he said.
The effects from the downturn were not just related to real estate. Arber said businesses across all industries were cutting budgets. Now he is seeing indications that those trends are starting to reverse.
“It’s starting to loosen up a bit,” he said. “In 2008 to 2010, the people who had spent $5,000 were spending $500. ... The marketing and signage end, even though it’s an important first impression for a business, kind of fell by the wayside.”
Seashore Signs produces a variety of materials, from business cards and brochures to digitally printed banners, 3-D signs and wraps for vehicles.
Besides producing the material, the business gets contracts from chains to install signage, including at the recently opened Big Lots in Cape May Court House, he said.
Arber said all business signs — whether yard signs or truck lettering — should address “the big three: Who are you, what do you do, and how do I reach you,” he said.
When Arber bought the existing business in 2005, he got its inventory, customer list and name. He previously did environmental consulting for an engineering firm, and was looking for a new line of work after being laid off.
“It’s a business that other businesses need. I wasn’t necessarily looking for something that was retail, tourist oriented. I didn’t want to sell
T-shirts, I didn’t want a retail store. Business to business was my goal,” he said.
Seashore Signs Inc.
Location: 28 Indian Trail Road, Unit 103, Middle Township
Owner: Dave Arber, 42, of Wildwood
Started: 2005, current owner
Revenue: Not disclosed
Contact Brian Ianieri: