Owners of Local Signage Business Maintain Sense of Community in Serving Companies Large & Small

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((L) Rick and Laurie Hetherington, owners of M.C. Smith Signs in Bend and Dana Signs in Redmond (R) Last summer, M.C. Smith Sign Shop worked with Visit Bend on its project to update the signature Bend Ale Trail promotion. The project required printing, manufacturing and installing new POP signage for 48 different local businesses | Photos courtesy of Rick Hetherington)

For Rick Hetherington, owner and CEO of M.C. Smith Signs in Bend and Dana Signs in Redmond, maintaining a sense of community is a priority. “We are a Central Oregon-based company servicing Central Oregon businesses,” he says. “The great relationships we have with Central Oregon suppliers and our local customers has been very rewarding.”

M.C. Smith Signs has been in business in Bend since 1975, and Dana Signs got its start in Redmond in the 1990s. Hetherington continued the tradition of serving the local community through the company’s most recent addition, the purchase of Impact Graphix & Signs in Redmond, a year ago. The company had been a competitor, but when the owners retired, Hetherington acquired Impact, retaining its three employees and most of its customers. “The successful acquisition of Impact was huge. There is lots of risk involved in doing this, but it’s very rewarding when you can pull it off,” he says. “Their employees have been a great addition to our team.”

Hetherington, along with his wife, Laurie, together own the M.C. Smith Signs and Dana Signs group, with Laurie serving as the corporation’s secretary. The company is a full-service custom sign and graphics business with a staff of 16 employees between the two sites. They create signage, vehicle wraps, decals and other projects from start to finish, and with the acquisition of Impact, they were able to double their print capacity. “It’s been a good transition,” he says. “Purchasing the company allowed us to expand our production capability by acquiring their assets. Today, we now have four large-format, full-color printers, two at each location.”

M.C. Smith Signs was begun in 1975 by Mike Smith, who grew the business and moved it to its current location on NE 2nd Street and Olney Avenue in 2010. Brent and Judy Grenfell purchased Dana Signs in 2002, and then purchased M.C. Smith Signs in 2016. The Grenfells also grew the business, and moved Dana Signs to its current site on Umatilla Avenue in the Redmond Airport Industrial Park, adding the Dana Shirt Shop in 2014. Now, although the staffs at both sites work together as a team, the businesses continue to operate under separate dba names in Bend and Redmond, Hetherington says, to honor the legacy and brands created by each company.

Prior to owning M.C. Smith Signs and Dana Signs, Hetherington grew up on a family farm in Northeastern Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State with a degree in Agricultural Engineering Mechanization and a minor in Business. After college, he worked on the farm until the early 1980s, until the economy required him to look for other opportunities. His connection to Oregon began when he accepted a position with Wenco Windows, a division of JELD-WEN, to work at their window factory in his hometown of Ringtown, Pennsylvania. In 1993, JELD-WEN purchased Bend Millworks Company, and he was asked to come to Bend to be production manager at the Pozzi Window division. “I worked for JELD-WEN for 30 years from 1984 to 2014. During that time, I climbed the classic business management ladder, serving in the roles of front-line manager, production manager, general manager, vice president and senior vice president. In my first role, I supervised 14 employees. As senior vice president, I managed the JELD-WEN Window Group with 17 factories and 5,000+ employees in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Laurie grew up in California, and her connection to Oregon began when she took a position with the JELD-WEN Legal department in Klamath Falls in 1998. “We married in 2002 and resided in Bend,” says Hetherington. “Our time together at JELD-WEN included relocations to Klamath Falls, back to Bend and then to Charlotte, North Carolina. During that entire time, I maintained an office in Bend. In 2015, we returned to our Bend property as our primary residence.”

The work produced by M.C. Smith Signs and Dana Signs can literally be seen all around town. The team serves such notable clients as Pahlisch Homes, Hayden Homes and CS Construction; resorts including Brasada, Pronghorn, Tetherow and Caldera Springs; restaurants such as 900 Wall, Pine Tavern and Cascade Lakes Distillery; and many other recognizable businesses of all sizes throughout Central Oregon.

Last summer, M.C. Smith Sign Shop worked with Visit Bend on its project to update the signature Bend Ale Trail promotion. The project required printing, manufacturing and installing new POP signage for 48 different local businesses. Rick personally delivered and installed all the new signage. “It was interesting to see the wide variety of eating and drinking establishments that Central Oregon has to offer,” he says.

Although the pandemic has had some impact on the company, Hetherington says that because M.C. Smith Signs and Dana Signs work with essential businesses, the corporation has weathered the storm well. “It’s been quite a crazy time, but we have been blessed. There was the initial shutdown, but because we work with construction-industry clients, and on the vehicle side we work with the police and fire departments, business is good.” He adds, “On the construction side, we also have commercial contractors who are building apartments.”

The biggest change with the pandemic, he says, is that he now has employees who are working from home. “We had employees who were higher risk, so we set them up to work remotely. One of our employees relocated to Idaho, but he is a designer, so he is working remotely from there.” Pre-pandemic, Hetherington says they had never had anyone work from home before. “It’s cool that this was a way for our employees to stay safe and keep working during the pandemic. It’s working quite well. It’s another example of the new hybrid employment thing that is working.”

While the labor and supply shortages have not prevented M.C. Smith Signs and Dana Signs from doing business, Hetherington says he has had to make adjustments. “We have the normal struggles with raw material pricing, and on the employee side, we are having to raise wages to keep employees. But there hasn’t been too much trouble with the supply chain, other than the costs.” He adds, “Most of the supplies are available, but the costs are dramatically higher.”

The biggest struggle lately, he says, is finding new employees in order to grow his business. “With the Central Oregon economic growth, there is opportunity to grow, but the difficulty is finding employees. We can recruit from outside the area, and when we advertise, there is interest, but then people look at what it costs to live in Central Oregon. Once they do the math and see what it will cost to move here, it severely limits us. That’s the throttle on being able to grow the business. You can’t grow without employees.” He adds, “We are physically building custom products here, so we really have to have the manufacturing staff on site.”

When they aren’t working, the Hetheringtons and their two sons enjoy alpine and Nordic skiing, snow shoeing, mountain biking and hiking. “We want to live local, play local, buy local and support the local business and nonprofit organizations in Bend, Redmond and Central Oregon.”

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