As mentioned, Southwest Signs was founded by Harvey Billingsley in 1946, with a Plymouth station wagon and two ladders. He had worked with other companies for a few years and after WWII, he felt the desire to step out on his own and start his own sign service company. Through the years, the company grew and he purchased his first crane truck which allowed him to branch out and perform more than just service to neon signs but also install the signs.
In 1954, after eight years of working out of his home, Harvey opened his first full manufacturing and installation building on Holmgreen Rd., on the Southeast side of San Antonio. He then invested in new installation equipment to give him the ability to produce his own Plexiglass formed sign faces, which was one of the newest types of sign face technology at that time. This began Southwest Signs’ history of being one of the industry’s leaders in purchasing cutting edge manufacturing technology.
In 1969, the company took another huge step into its continued growth by moving to a new facility twice the size of the Holmgreen facility. The company still resides in this location today.
From the 70’s, the company grew to become one of the largest custom sign manufactures in Texas.
In 1970, Harvey turned the reigns over to his son, Jesse Billingsley. JB took over the day-to-day running of the company, along with his sister Carol and brother-in-law, Woodrow Burkett. He had a vision of growing this local sign company into a company that could support it’s customers in all parts of Texas. From the early 70’s, the company grew to become of the largest custom sign manufactures in Texas. JB made lifelong personal and business relationships with some of major companies that are still around today, such as Diamond Shamrock, Bill Miller BBQ, Brake Check, and various other companies.
During this time, JB made major strides in investing in new technology. Southwest Signs was among the first sign companies to purchase the first generation of automated computer router equipment, along with plasma computer assisted cutting tables. The new equipment completed in minutes what would take a day for a man to do in cutting.
This conversion was invaluable as one of the first major projects that southwest signs completed of this size and scope.
This investment once again played a key roll in the direction that the company would take. Southwest Signs was awarded a huge project from Diamond Shamrock to convert some 150 stores from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Valley to their new image in 1987. This conversion was invaluable as one of the first major projects that Southwest Signs completed of this size and scope. The company’s performance on this project became the main reason Southwest Signs secured its next large client. Diamond Shamrock hired the company to replace every ATM sign at the Diamond Shamrock stores to Bank One signage. This project converted over 350 individual signs at over 150 locations in Texas.
During the 90’s, the company grew at an average of over 12% per year to its highest sales volume of 13 million, with branches in Houston, Dallas, and Austin. The Southwest Signs home office was expanded to a manufacturing facility of 55,000 square feet. The company was privileged enough to be working with some of the fastest growing companies at the time – HEB, Hollywood Video, Diamond Shamrock, IHop Restaurants, Saltgrass Steak House, Advance Auto Parts, and MacFrugals.
The company experienced a major loss in 1997 with the death of Dewayne Billingsley. During the next five years, the company was run by Greg Burkett, a third-generation family owner. The company was able to maintain and grow its market share in a very volatile late 90’s market, with the internet bubble bust.
Our performance with CVS has been the catalyst to secure many new major national customers.
The company was then purchased in a merger deal with Bell Signs in which Greg Burkett maintained ownership and Chad Jones was brought in as a partner with the new company. Chad had served Southwest Neon as a sales representative, and then as Sales Manager until the time of the merger.
Greg Burkett and Chad Jones were able to purchase the company back in 2003, and buy out all interest from Bell Signs. Six months after this buy-out, Southwest Signs secured our largest conversion project of changing the signage 135 Eckerd stores to CVS. After this conversion, we were chosen to be one of CVS’s primary vendors for all new store construction and special projects. Two years after the Eckerd conversion, we were once again awarded 110 stores to convert from Osco and Save On Pharmacies to CVS. Our performance with both of these conversions has been the catalyst to securing many new major national customers.
Our success has been fueled by strong coordinations and a can-do attitude to meet the needs of the customer.
Since 2003, under the same leadership, Southwest Signs has grown each year an average of 30% per year. The key to this success is our continued commitment to the foundation that was laid by our past leadership; a commitment to the customer, to technology, and to our employees. Along with this growth, the company has just completed Phase 4 of our facilities by adding over 5,000 square feet of office and 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Currently the facility is 100,000 square feet of office and manufacturing.
Our success has been fueled by strong coordination and a can-do attitude to meet the needs of the customer. We are also committed to keeping up with the latest trends in manufacturing, information technology, and communications.