Kieffer & Co. Inc.: Illuminating Corporate Identity

Well-designed and well-constructed on-premise signs can create a strong presence for all types of businesses, according to Matt Mele, president and CEO of Kieffer & Co. Inc. (Kieffer Signs). From the hospitality industry to the retail sector and financial institutions, exterior signs make a first and lasting impression for all businesses alike.

Kieffer Signs was founded in 1959 by Don Kieffer, and was later sold to his son, Steve Kieffer, in the early ’80s. Matt and Steve transformed the company from a small custom sign shop selling to local businesses to a nationally recognized sign establishment. The company’s 106 employees operate out of a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and 27,000 square feet of office space.

Kieffer Signs designs, manufactures, ships and installs many familiar signs nationwide. The Wisconsin-based company also boasts two offices in Illinois, allowing Kieffer Signs to become one of the nation’s leading consulting and manufacturing firms of electric signs, with many clients appearing on the Fortune 1,000 list.

According to Mele, what separates Kieffer Signs from the competition is how the sales support teams manage each customer account. Kieffer Signs focuses on building long-term relationships with customers. Mutual trust serves as the foundation.

The company’s relationships have allowed Kieffer Signs to establish quite an impressive client list, which includes major retail stores, such as PETSMART, Staples and Ulta Beauty. The company’s customers range from big name repeat businesses such as Walgreens, Hilton Worldwide and Holiday Inn to custom signs for the PEZ Corporate Visitor’s Center in Orange, Conn., Studio 6F at the St. Louis Six Flags location and Chicago Sports Depot located just outside U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.

Reimaging Implementation

Recently, Kieffer Signs executed a large conversion project with Shopko, a Wisconsin-based retail chain. Shopko purchased 176 Pamida department stores across 17 states. “Every store needed new Shopko Hometown signs,” says Matt. Due to the company’s esteemed reputation, Shopko contracted with Kieffer Signs to do the work.

The project began with site surveys of all 176 locations. According to Matt, photos and measurements were taken of each site and building to help the design team create site-specific designs showing the Shopko Hometown logo superimposed on building elevations and freestanding pylon signs. Once approved by the customer, these designs were used to obtain landlord authorization and local sign permits. At that point, production began.

“All production work happens in the Sheboygan manufacturing facility,” reports Matt. “The only work subcontracted out is installation.” Because Kieffer Signs ships nationwide, as well as to Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, the company hires local installers to ensure each job is done – and done well.

Signs for the Future

Kieffer Signs has been providing electric signs for over 50 years and has grown to post annual revenues of $27 million. “The company has focused its work with many Fortune 1,000 companies, offering extensive repeat business,” says Matt. However, Matt and his team also realize the company needs to expand to additional markets.

Retail has been Kieffer Signs’ dominant niche market for most of the company’s existence. In 2006 Kieffer Signs became a major player in the hospitality industry by becoming an approved vendor of Hilton Worldwide. Then, in 2008, Kieffer Signs became an approved vendor of Holiday Inn (IHG) and was instrumental in rebranding Holiday Inn’s existing locations with the new logo showcased today. The company continues to supply exterior signage for both companies.

“The company’s latest effort in expanding our customer base is breaking into the restaurant and financial sectors, adding clients like Red Robin, Corner Bakery and 5/3 Bank to our customer list,” details Matt. Reaching out to the restaurant industry is a strategic move Kieffer Signs had to make in today’s market.

According to Matt, the economy has been hard on retail corporations and therefore many are spending less on new construction. However, reimaging existing locations and capital improvement projects are helping pick up that slack. Kieffer & Co. Inc. has been able to pull through the current recession with steady business, and plans to do so for many years to come.