HURON — A well known quote — paraphrased — says “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
While there is no doubt that Shelly and Jeff McGirr work hard at their downtown Huron business Signature Plus, they also greatly enjoy what they do and where they do it.
Signature Plus is marking its 20th year in business this year, and is this week’s Plainsman Spotlight Business.
“We first began in a small building on Second and Illinois,” Jeff said recently in the office of the business that he and his wife Shelly have built. “We outgrew that space pretty quickly and this space was available, so we purchased it in late 2000 and moved here.”
Signature Plus has occupied the space at 363 Wisconsin Ave. S.W. — formerly Karl’s TV and Appliance, the Music Center or if you go further back, Urquhart Motors — for the past 17 years.
The McGirrs run the customer friendly business that does custom screen printing and embroidery, trophies and awards for special recognition and something new that is very popular right now.
“We have begun doing laser-etched drink cups,” Shelly said, as Jeff grabbed a model off a display. “They have become very popular as promotional items for our corporate customers.”
The specially designed drink cups are either coated in black or are brushed aluminum. When the customer’s design is laser etched, it comes out as the opposite, so this particular cup is black and has “Signature Plus” etched in brushed aluminum.”
“Many of the drink cups out there are not necessarily made to be laser etched,” Jeff points out. “These are and we have received very positive comments on the ones we have done for customers thus far.”
Laser etched drink cups are the latest in “Plus” products and services over the past 20 years. And while the screen printed and embroidered shirt, hat and other apparel remain the prime focus of the business, in some ways the customer base has changed.
“I would have to say that while we still produce products for local high schools, we now have as much or maybe more corporate customers,” Jeff said. He examined a rack that was filled with work orders waiting to be processed and each of the nearly dozen orders were for corporate or business clients.
“We keep school items in stock as much as we can,” Shelly said, “while still accommodating special orders for tournaments and such. When a business calls, it is often to replenish its supplies of hats, shirts or other items.”
“It really takes a mix in a city like Huron,” Jeff said.
They will process orders as small as 12 items for a customer, although they have an automated screen printing machine that can turn out up to 200 t-shirts an hour. Everything in the screen printing and embroidery portion of the business is computer controlled.
“We started with one two-head embroidery machine,” Jeff said. “We now have 11 of those type of machines and the same number of people, but can offer a quicker turn-around on most orders.”
In addition to themselves, the McGirrs have a full-time person working in the the screen printing portion of the business and one full-time person in embroidery.
“We have great customers and great employees,” Jeff said. “We wouldn’t be noting 20 years in business if we didn’t have both of them.”
He said that the biggest change in the overall business that has taken place is the presence of the Internet. While Signature Plus does sell product on the web — particularly for a specific event like a state tournament — it has become much more of a competitor.
Another change is that Jeff and Shelly no longer travel to different shows to print custom shirts.
“We did that when we started,” he quipped, “and were younger, but it is pretty labor intensive to get prepared, go and set up, then tear down and pack it all back up. Then you drive home, unpack and you are back to the start of the week.”
While they don’t do the traveling, the long-term benefit is that many of the contacts that they made during those shows now call for orders, because they know from experience that they will be getting a quality product that is well done and delivered in a timely fashion.
“Summer is really a busy time for us,” Jeff said. “There are lots of 5K runs, or some other fundraiser for the t-shirt business; we do all the trophies for Orville (Chenoweth) at Dakota State Fair Speedway and other awards as well, including the Karen Fourth of July soccer tournament celebration.”
“We do really love what we are doing,” Jeff said. “I would expect that things will continue to rely more and more on technology and we will continue to do what we need to do to stay current, so continue to serve our customers in Huron and the surrounding area.”
If you know of a Huron-area business that is noting a milestone and wish to nominate them for the Spotlight Business, send an email to [email protected] and explain what you feel makes them a Spotlight Business. Businesses may be selected to be highlighted in an upcoming edition of the Huron Plainsman.