By Joey McWilliams
DURANT – The Sign Depot hits the big 2-0 on Saturday, marking 20 years in business in Durant.
Owner Rick Campo and his family and employees have been serving the area and beyond for two decades and are giving away many gifts and promotional items today to celebrate.
Campo said it has been a struggle at times, but that he loves what he does.
“It’s excellent,” Campo said. “It’s been a passion to create signs and create, in a way, works of art. It’s something that when you get done and people say, ‘Wow! That looks great!’, you just really enjoy it.”
Campo, a 1980 graduate of Boswell High School and valedictorian of his class, didn’t set out at first to be in the signage business.
“When I started the Sign Depot, I had lost my job,” Campo said. “I was running a big manufacturing plant. I was the plant manager and the company got bought out. And I couldn’t find a job making was I was making at that company.
“So I was sitting in my newspaper, and back then we had newspapers and not Google, and I was looking at the Help Wanted ads. I had been in the plastics industry and there was an ad that said ‘New innovative plastics opportunity’, so I called the 800-number and it was basically a scam-type deal, but it was selling a sign franchise. And I had that salesman in my living room the next morning at 10 a.m., he drove all night long from somewhere in Missouri.
“I did some research and found all the equipment. And told myself what he had told me and that was that everybody needs a sign and there’s unlimited work for the sign business. So I bought into that idea and went and bought the equipment and started my own sign company.”
Campo said the first few years were hard and that he mowed lawns and tore down buildings for people and more just to make ends meet, but after a couple of years, it took off.
The business started where J and F Supply used to be and then it moved to its current location after Campo purchased the building, which was formerly owned by his wife’s grandfather. He owns the building next to it, as well as having a 30×40 location at his home for doing some of the large vehicle installs.
Rick’s son, Michael, has been with the business since the beginning, as well.
“Back in 1997 when he started it, I was 12 years old and I had no choice but to go to work,” Michael Campo said. “But the good thing is that it teaches you a lot of work ethic. I feel like I had an advantage.
“At the time, I didn’t think so, but looking back I’m glad it worked out that way because I learned a lot that helped me out later on in life.”
Michael said it hasn’t always been perfect, and that working with family can be difficult, but that the two have grown and now work together well as a team.
“It’s something that has taken us years to kind of perfect. I’ve quit. I’ve been fired. I can’t tell you how many times. But now we can’t imagine a day without the other being a part of it. We’re a team now.
“I guess that’s the thing that in order to build something you have to put metal to metal and it has to be forged in the fire to make it stronger. The neat side of this is that my dad and I have a bond, not only as father and son, but also as business partners and boss and employee and it’s very unique and nice at the same time.”
The Sign Depot now covers a vast array of products that can be produced. Customers can walk in off the street for personal signs or other items. But the business also has a wide reach throughout Oklahoma, Texas and more.
There are now 13 people working there including the Campos and Rick said they can do just about everything – from small name plates to $200,000 billboards.
“If it’s custom signage, we can do that,” Rick Campo said. “For example, we just quoted a large project for the Choctaw Casino, a large video wall to cover a complete interior wall. And the wall going down the corridor is going to be wrapped with LED lighting and chase lighting and all that stuff.
“We were in Poteau with a crew and redoing all the canopies on the travel plazas. We did 13 and replaced the doors on the bottom of their gas pumps. We have metal fabrication and the wrapping – the decals over metal surfaces – brick, rock, stuff, anything.”
The Sign Depot has also bee remodeling the interior of the First United Bank locations – a two-year project involving more than 80 locations.
“We do national signs for companies: U.S. Cellular, Cricket Wireless, Orscheln, H&R Block, Jack in the Box, Sonic. We repair all the Sonic LED message centers in a 200-mile radius. and we work with the Choctaw Nation and Choctaw Casino.
Camp said he has one crew of people that that is all they do is the small signage for the walk-in traffic and another crew out in bucket trucks doing installations. He said they are also about to purchase a new bucket truck.
The business also has a flatbed printer and a CNC router (computer controlled) for 3-D carving.
The family business has grown much in the 20 years it has been in Durant and Rick Campo said there have been struggles and growing pains along the way. But he summed up his thoughts about serving the community in the way the Sign Depot has for all this time.
“We just really enjoy what we do.”