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Mark Kissling

Online Extra: A Shop’s Printing Profiles

More great details and photos from our July interview with Fastsigns of Pflugerville.

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Staff Photo: (left to right) Tia Fusaro, Amanda Fusaro, Chelsea Martinez, Sandra Cazares, Patty Fusaro, Jeffrey Fusaro Staff Photo: (left to right) Tia Fusaro, Amanda Fusaro, Chelsea Martinez, Sandra Cazares, Patty Fusaro, Jeffrey Fusaro

JEFFREY AND PATTY FUSARO, co-owners of Fastsigns of Pflugerville (Pflugerville, TX), are rather new to the sign business. But that hasn’t stopped the married duo from working hard to turn around what had been a failing franchise location.

Here’s the full interview with Jeffrey (“JF” below), whose shop served as the basis for my current “Prints and Wraps” column, entitled “The Right Profile” (see ST July 2022, page 42).

ST: How many employees do you have? Their names?

JF: We have two full-time employees. Sandra Cazares is our graphic designer and Chelsea Martinez recently joined us as our production specialist and visual communications specialist. Our daughter, Tia, is also working part-time during her summer break from high school.

ST: Why were you (both) confident you could turn this particular franchise location around?

JF: We were both hopeful that we would be able to increase sales, but we also knew that it was not going to happen overnight since we had a steep learning curve ahead of us. Being that we are both new to business ownership and the signage industry, we knew that there were going to be so many “you don’t know what you don’t know” moments. There have been many more than anticipated.

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ST: Is it fair to say that the majority of your services are printer based?

JF: Yes, a majority of our products and services are printer based, but we have supplied several customers with dimensional-lettering signage, as well.

ST: What are your top three sellers?

JF: Construction-site signage, vehicle and window graphics, and banners.

ST: You included the following in our Brain Squad survey from last month, when we asked for respondents’ favorite signmaking tools and equipment:

“We are new and only have the basic equipment package for all Fastsigns franchises. We have an Epson SureColor S60600 printer, Mimaki CG-160FXII plotter and Kala Mistral 1650 laminator. The Epson is our workhorse and I am very happy with its performance. I am still in a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Mimaki and the Kala. Somedays, we just don’t get along.”

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Why, specifically, are you happy with your Epson?

JF: The quality of the printing from the Epson is exceptional. The printer is also easy to operate and maintain. We can load a roll of material into the Epson and let it run unattended once the material is being wound onto the takeup reel. (Side note: As fate would have it, our Epson suffered a catastrophic printhead failure two days ago. We are now waiting for an Epson service technician to replace the printheads. Murphy’s Law strikes again).

ST: What major issues are you having with your Mimaki and Kala?

JF: We’ve not had any major issues with our Mimaki plotter or the Kala laminator. Once they are set up and operated properly, they run like clockwork. To be honest, the issues that we have had with our equipment have been “operator-induced.” When we purchased the franchise, our [original] graphic designer ran all of the equipment. While Patty and I were busy learning the business, we didn’t get a lot of hands-on time with the equipment. When [that] designer left, I had to step up and run the equipment.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I loaded laminate into the Kala backwards. Loading material into the Mimaki plotter was also a bit confusing, at first. I felt like I needed another pair of hands. Now that I’ve been running all of the equipment myself for several weeks, things are flowing much smoother. The Fastsigns Technical Service department also has several excellent online video tutorials showing how to set up and run the equipment. After watching the videos a few times, I feel much more confident operating all of our equipment.

ST: How are you seeking to train yourselves to become more adept, more efficient, etc., with your printing and laminating equipment?

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JF: As I mentioned previously, the Fastsigns Technical Services department has several excellent training videos for learning how to set up and run the equipment in our shop. Watching the videos on the TV monitor in our shop while standing beside the machinery has been super helpful. When I’m still not able to follow along with simple instructions at times, the Fastsigns Technical Services team is only a phone call away. They’ve saved my bacon on more than one occasion. The best part is, they never make me feel like a dunce for asking a simple question. They are awesome.

ST: Are you willing to briefly share “a lesson learned the hard way,” that is, a job that involved a major printing error that you learned from — and perhaps our readers could, too?

JF: A while back, we were having a lot of print issues that caused us to throw away a lot of vinyl (and time and money). We were continually getting head strikes and ink spots on our prints. As it turned out, we were being a bit lax with printer maintenance, so I asked our designer to run a print head cleaning cycle and nozzle check every morning before printing anything. I also asked that the printheads be thoroughly cleaned every Monday morning. This has greatly reduced print defects.

I also noticed that if we left vinyl loaded in the printer overnight, or over the weekend, the film would have ripples in it the next morning. I assumed that this was the result of temperature and humidity changes in the room, after normal hours. We have since been rewinding the vinyl back onto the roll every evening. In the morning, we reload the vinyl into the printer and there are no ripples. We are having far fewer head strikes now. These minor changes resulted in big improvements.

ST: Finally, what are the one or two most important things you’ve learned about prints (and wraps) since you took over this franchise location? What do you think our readers could learn from your experience thus far?

JF: I have attended a Fastsigns sponsored vehicle wrap class and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was a bit intimidating. However, we haven’t tackled any wrap projects, as our shop does not have an indoor space large enough to house a vehicle during the wrap process. In our part of Texas, there is a constant breeze. Some days, it’s quite brisk and working outside with large graphics can be challenging. Summer heat can be over 100 degrees, which can be uncomfortable for extended periods of time.

Regarding the printing process … Mistakes happen — from the estimate phase to the delivery phase. The sooner you catch the mistake, the less the financial impact. Better to catch the error before the estimate even gets to the customer. Catching a spelling error while you are in the middle of an installation is frustrating and costly.

I’m a perfectionist. If I see a defect on a print, I cringe — no matter how small it is. I ask myself if I would be happy paying for the product I’m inspecting. Sometimes the answer is ‘no’ and the job has to be redone. I realize that absolute perfection isn’t attainable, but in aiming for perfection, excellence can be achieved.

The last thing I want to do is show a finished product to a customer only to have them point out a defect. I tell my team, “You won’t notice what isn’t there.” I get some strange looks for that comment, but I explain it this way. If you walk into our store right after we’ve swept the carpet, you might not notice that the carpet is clean. But, if you walk into our store and there are grass clippings or dirt on the carpet you’d notice. It’s the same with a print: It’s either clean, or it’s not.

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)
A look at Fastsigns of Pflugerville’s printing and laminating equipment and supplies.

Mark Kissling is Signs of the Times’ Editor-in-Chief. Contact him at [email protected].

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