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How Carousel Signs made its niche

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Bobby Wiltshire, owner of Carousel Signs (Richmond, VA), has owned his shop for 28 years. But, that doesn’t mean he’s exempt from getting his hands dirty. He can often be found in the construction, post and assembly departments.

"[Early spring] is one of our busiest times of year," Wiltshire explained. "I have to handle whatever’s required to get the job done."

The early days

Wiltshire founded the company with his friend, Dick Burton, in 1975 after having worked a year in the signshop at Richmond’s King’s Dominion theme park. Burton’s wife christened the business from its maiden project — a gilded and refurbished vintage carousel.

After its initial project, Carousel began making signs and incorporated in January 1976. That spring, Burton decided to leave the company, and Wiltshire bought him out with a $2,500 loan from his father, Shorty. However, he soon learned the economic realities of running his own business.

"I immediately assumed $3,000 in debts," Wiltshire explained. "Those first few years were tough, but our client base grew, and I’d say things turned out pretty well."

Handpainted wood and MDO signs, vehicle lettering and airbrushing comprised the bulk of Carousel’s early business. Wiltshire’s fondness for redwood’s appearance and texture led to Carousel’s "signature" look.

"We were the first to really offer sandblasted signs in the Richmond area," he said. "This really helped us find our niche."

A Gerber Scientific Products IV-B plotter represented a significant milestone in Carousel’s history. The shop crew initially used it to fabricate secondary text, but handpainted primary copy. As experience taught Wiltshire and his staff the possibilities of CAS, they began to implement more advanced equipment.Gerber Scientific Products

Today, Wiltshire owns a Gerber EDGE

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