Northwest Signs & Apparel grows into new space
Signs and designs
What: Northwest Signs & Apparel, creating logos, vehicle "wrap" art and decorated clothing items
Where: 1090 N.E. Eighth St.
Owners/partners: Chris Brittain, Brittany Brittain and Rob Faria
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Friday; closed Saturday and Sunday.
As a business name, Northwest Signs & Apparel is solid, functional and generally describes the services its three partners provide.
That said, it doesn't fully capture the sheer pop and wow factor the elaborate, intricate and precise "wrap" designs the shop produces for vehicles and businesses, along with arty logos for clothing and other surfaces.
But with years of design and colorful branding success behind him — and a new, larger shop location at Northeast Eighth Street and Cleveland Avenue — founder Chris Brittain is confident he's found the ingredients for continued success.
"I've been doing this for 20 years," he said. "People tell other people, and we're getting a lot more business just in the month we've been (on Eighth Street) … I never thought I'd be able to find a job that I considered enjoying every day."
With partners Rob Faria and Brittany Brittain, who is married to Chris, on board for the past year, Northwest Signs & Apparel moved in January from a visibility-challenged industrial park spot off Northeast 223rd Avenue to a greatly expanded, 4,000-square foot space at 1090 N.E. Eighth St.
The partners share a mixture of duties, including design work. Brittany focuses on the business's newly added apparel end — including T shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and hats. Faria applies his financial background to bookkeeping, and Chris multitasks on anything from creating designs to hands-on installations.
"We do everything in house," Faria noted. "And we do apparel, while other (wrap/sign design businesses) don't. We even do modifications. There's a lot more we do than an average wrap shop."
After years in finance, Faria joined up with friends Chris and Brittany to try something a little more adventurous.
"It all kind of felt like a good fit," he said. "I gave up a lot of money to do something fun. Designing wraps, signs and logos is a fun thing — until you have to make a lot of changes."
Northwest's highest profile work is evident in cars, vans and trucks representing businesses covered with various "wrap" designs featuring a logo and specific, eye-catching colors and artwork. Its most prestigious client is the city of Portland, including its massive fleet of police vehicles. All those blue-and-black exterior wraps that envelop and brand patrol cars and trucks originate from the family-and friend-run Gresham business.
Chris Brittain connected with Portland police through PPB's contract with Superior Auto Body on Southeast Orient Drive, where the bureau gets its vehicles repaired.
"I do all the striping jobs, the wrap fix, striping and lettering (at Superior)," Brittain noted.
With as many as 80 cars coming online each summer, keeping up is a challenge, but one with its rewards.
"They won't let any other sign shop touch their cars," Brittain said proudly. "We're the only ones allowed to do it. It's all about consistency.
"It feels good," he added. "It means we're doing a good job. Most (agencies) want a quote on everything, but (Portland) doesn't. I know not to overcharge."
Other clients painstakingly "wrapped" by Northwest Signs include Caliber Plumbing and Mechanical Services, who ordered $12,000 in interior wall wrappings, A-Temp Heating and Cooling, and Mt. Hood Glass.
Brittain launched his business solo as Brittain Signs, whose first official location was in the Mt. Hood Honda building at Powell Boulevard and Elliott Street.
"We outgrew that and went to Birdsdale Business Park" on 223rd Avenue," Brittain said. "We were mobile (based) before, but once you get digital printers, you can't be mobile."
With ample parking space to accommodate clients' motor homes and fifth wheels, the new Eighth Street location — with its long history of vehicle and industrial shop uses — proved ideal for Brittain.
"I've been trying to get in this spot for five years," he said. "This is way better."
These days, the longtime Gresham resident doesn't have much time to reflect on his and his partners' upward trajectory of success. And that's the way he likes it.
"I don't get sick of it," Brittain said. "Very rarely do people find a career where they say they enjoy every day. To me, it's not a job."
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