Little did VP Bob Morris know that when he started his small sign business out of his house, that one day it would grow to become one of the leading full-service shops in his part of the country. Some 30 years later, J&B Graphics, based in Oklahoma City, has grown to become one of the best in the region, offering a diverse mix of services ranging from wide-format printing and vehicle wraps to architectural signage, dimensional signage and illuminated channel letters.
“At J&B Graphics we blend the personal service of a small company with large company capabilities,” Morris says. “We strive to offer nothing but the best customer service to our clients. Our state-of-the-art equipment and facilities are ready and able to fill all signage, printing, creative and production needs.”
Their Roland AJ 1000 wide-format printer proved to be a real workhorse, producing a major rush banner wrap project this spring for the NBA Finals.
Morris says the reason for their longevity in the highly competitive market is based on a number of factors.
“First it’s based on word of mouth advertising and repeat business from satisfied customers,” Morris says. “In addition, our in-house manufacturing capabilities means we can control quality and delivery dates every step of the way, beginning with design consultation, through the production process, and right up to installation. Finally, the almost infinite amount of choices we can offer in services, designs and materials allow us to create the right look, for the right price, for any client.”
From Small Acorns, Mighty Oaks
Before opening his shop, Morris worked on the consumable side of the sign business as a sales rep selling the Dahlgren engraving machine.
Interior wraps of the Chesapeake Energy Arena for the NBA Finals included large banners and even elevator wraps.
“That was the company that invented computerized engraving equipment,” Morris says. “In fact, to this day we are still involved in the engraving business; we are also a wholesale distributor for GCC LaserPro.”
During that time while working for Dahlgren, his two children were born and he was getting tired of traveling more than 40 weeks out of the year. He wanted to spend more time closer to home. Along with wife Jackie’s strong encouragement, they began looking at starting their own business.
“Jackie and I already had purchased some sign making and engraving equipment, and we made the decision to take the risk and start J&B Graphics out of the back bedroom of our house in the early 1980s,” he says. With Jackie, president of J&B, bringing in the accounts and Bob working the equipment, it proved to be a winning combination. After a few years they moved into a 900-square-foot retail facility and began to hire staff.
Over 300 feet of Ultraflex banner material was used to wrap the outside of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder, for the NBA Finals this spring. Player graphics were completed by Walker Companies.
“From there we continually purchased more equipment and added services to where we expanded to 25,000-square feet of space in two facilities that are four miles apart. That along with the addition of 25-28 employees, we are still plugging right along,” Morris says with a laugh.
As the years progressed, so did the company’s sign capabilities with the addition of computer-driven routers, vinyl cutters and welders. And while J&B remained strong by anticipating trends and modernizing its operations, it’s greatest successes continue to be attributable to its core values of service and adapting to the changing marketplace.
Morris says that a lion’s share of their business is in architectural signage for the medical industry.
“We produce signage for medical facilities pretty much in every state,” Morris says. “We are responsible for every sign on the medical campus; whether it’s a handicap parking sign or halo lit channel letters or ADA wall signs, digitally printed ads or even custom wall paper. Having all these products in house has opened up new avenues for us. We’ve become a one-stop solution for most of our client’s needs.”
He reports that they were recently in Thousand Oaks, Calif., providing all the signage for a new hospital.
J&B created this illuminated channel letter sign to welcome visitors to Stockyards City in Oklahoma City.
“About 22 percent of our business is in the state of Oklahoma, the rest of it is spread out across the country,” Morris says. “In addition to medical facilities, we provide signage to many other public buildings. For example, Oklahoma City is in the process of building its first 50 story high rise building since 1965 called Devon Tower. We are manufacturing every sign in the building. That has been on ongoing project for us. We are currently installing signs on the 46th floor.”
Morris says that their engraving department does about 95 percent manufacturing of ADA signs.
“We manufacture both engraved ADA signs as well as the photopolymer ones,” Morris says. “It’s one of our specialties. Being ADA compliant is such an important part of the signage business and definitely a challenging one. One of the things we have been able to do is minimize confusion for our customers and have become a complete product and education source for all their ADA-compliant and other signage needs. If you are going to be in the ADA business you really need to keep up with the rules and regulations. They are different from state to state. We are constantly checking for any changes for new construction requirements.”
J&B’s B-52 Bomber Porsche wrap is an ideal example of their excellent wrap capabilities.
In addition to their engraving business, they offer wholesale work for GCC LaserPro.
“We sell the LaserPro line and also help set up shops in the laser engraving business,” Morris says. “We cover a number of states including Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico. It’s a great feeling helping new small businesses get started in this market.”
Foray into Digital Printing
J&B Graphics made the jump into digital printing eight years ago with the addition of the Mimaki JV3.
“We were doing an architectural job for one of our clients and they wanted to know if we could print some maps and signs for them; so we purchased the Mimaki,” Morris says. “It’s still doing its share of work in the shop today. Having been in the sign business most of my life, I have come to embrace the digital print world. The fabulous fine artwork and graphic displays we produce each day is incredible. It’s amazing to see the many types of jobs we output on a daily basis.”
Over the past eight years, their printer arsenal has grown to include the Roland AdvancedJET AJ-1000, Océ Arizona 250 GT UV flatbed printer and HP Designjet L25500 Latex printer.
Window perf panels in the parking garage at the new Devon Tower.
“We tried to purchase each printer to meet different applications and needs of our clients,” says Morris. “We bought the Roland AJ 1000 unit to run large-format banner type jobs. Then we got the Océ Arizona 250 GT flatbed for site signs. It’s been ideal for printing directories and other signs for hospitals and businesses. The HP L25500 printer is perfect for our vehicle wrap business and other types of vinyl signs. I love the solid colors it prints on high-end vinyl,” he adds.
Fast Break Printing
The capabilities of the Roland AJ-1000 were put to the test with producing a major rush project this spring for the NBA Finals.
“The Chesapeake Energy Arena and home of our Oklahoma City Thunder became the host of the 2012 NBA Finals, when the Thunder played the Miami Heat for the league championship,” says Greg Moore, manager of J&B’s digital printing division.
“After they beat San Antonio to advance to the next round, the Thunder came to us about week before the finals and we literally printed about 300 feet of Ultraflex banner material to wrap the outside of the arena,” Moore says. “The Roland was a real workhorse for us. It’s a machine that loves to print. We set up the jobs up at night and come back in the morning and had finished rolls of printed banner material.”
They also used the Roland and their other printers to output interior signs for the project.
“We did a number of 12' x 40' foot playoff banners to hang from the inside of the arena as well as other signs for the NBA,” Moore says. “We utilized the HP to print on media to wrap the concrete walls inside of the area. There were 20 sections and it ranged from 47 feet to 37 feet per panel.”
Outdoor site signage done on the Arizona 250GT for the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City.
Moore says he likes the fact with all their printers they have the ability to print onto various types for media. The company uses 3M media, especially IJ180C on all their vehicle wraps. “With today’s technology we have the capability to print wall wraps, floor graphics, wall paper, and window perfs. The amount of products we can offer our clients is awesome.”
Morris points out that their diversified range of digital and sign building services has helped them pick up more business from existing clients.
“We were recently hired by a new restaurant in town to print basic menu boards for them,” Morris says. “After speaking more in depth with them and letting them know all we can do, it also lead to a 20-foot-tall pole sign, and set of open-faced neon channel letters.”
He adds that they will continue to grow and expand their business with the evolution of digital technology.
“J&B is designed to embrace the ever changing landscape of the visual marketing industry,” Morris says. “We look to grow the digital business over the next five years.”
From small beginnings to where they are today, Morris says it’s all about customer service.
“If you come to Oklahoma you won’t find us in the phonebook,” Morris says. “It’s all word of mouth advertising. Word of mouth advertising is worth its weight in gold. To promote our vehicle wrap business, we have a Porsche that Greg wrapped to look like B52 Bomber. There are no seams at all; it’s a flawless wrap job. We park it in front our building and take it to a lot of local events in the area. It draws a lot of attention and potential business. One of our local TV stations asks us to borrow it from time to time for their own promotions. You can’t buy publicity like that.”
Morris adds that their future success continues to lie with their employees.
“Jackie and I can’t do this by ourselves,” Morris says. “We are only as good as the team that we have put together. We have a great group of employees. Some come in at night or on the weekends to help get a job out in a pinch. We try to be a company that always says yes. Whatever your sign need, we will design it, create it, install it, and stand behind it.”