Signex in Steinbach is celebrating 40 years in business, and all signs point to continued success and growth.
"Forty years is a long time," says Signex General Manager Helena Koop. "We’ve had our signs installed from New York to the Northwest Territories, and have received recognition for our signs at the national level."
"Most recently, at the 2021 Sign Awards hosted by the Sign Association of Canada, our very own Stacey Gagné was awarded Young Sign Professional of the Year by her peers," enthuses Koop.
"Not only does it confirm to us that we have an exceptional employee, but that we are becoming well known across the country."
Koop explains that Signex specializes in offering the whole package – from design, to quoting, to manufacturing, to installation – they take care of it all.
"If you ask us to, we will definitely make your parking lot sign," says Koop. "But the majority of the work we do is completely custom. That’s our specialty. We do something different every day, and we're always looking for that next custom design. The industry is always changing."
Everyone agrees that signage is important, but often the pieces created by Signex are works of art.
"Signs don’t just tell you what a business is or where the reception desk is," shares Koop. "When we create signs, we’re creating landmarks and place makers. Architects are beginning to really tap into that and expand what a sign looks like or could be. It’s no longer just a simple sign – it’s about the overall experience."
Koop notes that many Manitobans see the work of Signex everywhere, without ever being aware of it.
"People typically don’t know, but those signs that you see in very prominent locations all over Winnipeg and Manitoba are made right here in Steinbach," confesses Koop. "We’re so proud of our local talent, it's all done here."
Signex created all the signs inside and outside for Outlet Collection Winnipeg, which includes a lot of wayfinding, and large signage. You’ll also see the work of Signex at the world-class Canadian Museum of Human Rights, where Signex created all the wayfinding and exterior monuments and donor signage. Another large scale project Signex accomplished was at Investors Group Field.
While the name has changed since, the original concept was from Signex – they designed and installed that whole package from start to finish.
A look ahead to the future wouldn’t be complete without a look back at the company’s roots.
"In the 1960s, an electrical company, Pankratz Electric, began receiving requests for signage," says Koop. "Vernon Pankratz took an interest in this development and began producing signage. As the need increased, Signex became its own entity in 1982. Soon after Vernon’s son, Kenneth, took over and grew the company. Through Ken Pankratz’s vision, dedication, and strong leadership, the company has thrived and succeeded since his ownership for the last 30-plus years. As President of the company today, he’s instrumental in providing mentorship and guidance in all aspects of the business."
Now, after four decades, Signex still continues to grow. Koop says their secret to longevity is their adaptability.
"People approach us with questions like, ‘do you do this?’ Well maybe at that time we didn't, but then we start investigating," explains Koop. "There's been many times where we saw a need, said yes, and were able to grow because of that experience. We’ve seen that our customers are looking for a package deal. They want everything from interior, to exterior, to parking lot signs – they want it all, and they want it from one company, so that's what we do."
Helena Koop herself has been with Signex for 29 years. She says the variety of work keeps her interested, and every day presents a new and different challenge. Koop says her favourite part of working at Signex is figuring out how to help each unique customer.
"How often do you need a sign?" she reflects. "People hardly ever purchase signs, so they don't know the language. I’m passionate about walking them through the process, and showing them all the different things we can do here at Signex – things they didn't know were even available!"
Adaptation has been key to the company since the very beginning, and that same ability to adapt continues to drive Signex forward today.
"Just adapting to everybody’s different needs, listening to our customers and trying to find a solution for them," says Koop. "That's what we're all about. Signex has always been solution oriented. We're constantly researching and we're always looking for the best product for our customers."
A key part of adapting involves the people working at Signex. Koop is quick to praise her coworkers.
"We have a great team, with many people here at Signex that have been with us for a very long time. On average, ten years per employee. They’re always ready for the next challenge and are instrumental in providing solutions during each stage of the process. We’re fortunate to have a group of solid and dedicated individuals."
As the years fly by, Signex continues to evolve, finding new innovative ways to help businesses stand out and be set apart. But their secret to success continues to stay the same.
"We listen to our customers," explains Koop. "When they come to us and ask if we can design something, we say yes. That's what we do. We’re always on the verge of our next big project."