Stewart Signs Turns 50
2018 marks an incredible milestone for the Stewart Signs family. As of this year, we’re officially 50 years old! That means we’ve witnessed five decades of signage trends, experienced vast changes in technology, and helped hundreds of different types of organizations all over the country increase their outreach.
In today’s world, signage is an everyday part of life. You see it at churches, grocery stores, on the side of the interstate, and everywhere else in between, but it wasn’t always this way.
Where We Began: Stewart Signs in 1968
One could argue Stewart Signs’ humble beginnings essentially started on a flatbed trailer. Please allow us to explain –
J. Melvin Stewart acquired a small sign manufacturing company after a loan he’d made to two people went south. With the sign industry now a part of his life, he moved the company to a state-of-the-art facility in Shippenville, PA. Coming from a religious family, Mel grew up watching his father—an Assemblies of God pastor—struggle to explain his church’s needs to commercial sign salesmen when he was a boy. Now that he had all the tools of the trade at his fingertips, Mel had the ability to fill a niche market and help congregations tell the world about their messages.
Armed with a big plan to help churches get the Good Word out about God, J. Melvin Stewart secured his innovative sectional-face sign onto a flatbed trailer and headed off to Springfield, Missouri. He named his 4’ x 8’ sign the Witness. Along this thousand-mile drive, Stewart noted one major observation: although church steeples were easily able to call to people when horses were the main mode of transportation, modern citizens in high-speed vehicles would seldom notice this pivotal architectural point.
Churches needed something more to grab the attention of passersby in the Age of the Automobile, and he was just the man to meet the challenge.
Partnering with Gospel Publishing House
J. Melvin Stewart successfully shook hands with the folks at Gospel Publishing House (GPH) when he arrived in Springfield, solidifying a relationship, which still continues to this day. Thanks to that meeting, Stewart Signs has been able to transform the way churches communicate with the public, whether people are meandering by on foot or speeding by in cars.
The Witness revolutionized church signage, allowing passersby to see service times from the road, easily read congregations’ messages, and learn about goings-on without inconveniencing the audience.
When Stewart Signs (then, known as J.M. Stewart Corporation) partnered with Gospel Publishing House, the company soared past Pennsylvania’s state borders, embarking on a national journey that would lead the company into decades (and counting) of success. GPH featured the Witness in its catalog and sent Stewart’s company the resulting customer inquiries. In return, Stewart and his team followed up with prospects and returned a percentage of the profits back to GPH. This was incredible inbound marketing long before Google was born!
As he began to branch out, Mel first made connections with Southern Baptist church leaders. Shortly thereafter, he began creating relationships with United Methodist churches. Although each denomination had a different personality and varying ways of communicating messages, they all wanted to find a better way to get the Word out about God. These denominational relationships have flourished because each are certain about the quality of the Stewart’s product and can confidently endorse the company to its congregations.
Today, and every day since that meeting, Stewart Signs has proudly been the industry leader for outdoor church signage. Since our beginnings 50 years ago, we’ve worked with churches of all sorts, sizes, and denominations. It’s our goal to make it easier for our clients’ fellowship to get closer to God.
Who We Are Today: Stewart Signs in 2018
With a few decades of church signage success under his belt, Mel branched out. In the 1990s, school pride became an essential focus of his sign business after church members started requesting signs for the schools their children attended. The company then began actively reaching out to academic institutions across the country, building signs (and, eventually, scoreboards) that would help its clients reach its community on a grander scale.
Here’s a look at our company’s timeline since then:
- 1993: 93-year-old Mel Stewart sold J.M. Stewart Corporation to Display Technologies
- 2001: EBSCO Industries purchased J.M. Stewart Corporation from Display Technologies
- 2018: Stewart Signs is the premier leader in church and school signage
Once upon a time, you’d rarely see a church or school sign. From the road, churches and schools were almost like any other building, and you had to take time to park your car and go inside to learn what the establishment was all about.
Stewart Signs changed all of this. Thanks to our innovative designs and top-of-the-line service, our customers know they can trust us to deliver their messages to the masses. What began as a company with a simply designed sectional-face sign, has grown into a go-to place for churches, schools, and businesses who need a better way to brand their voices.
Today, we focus on all sorts of signage, including:
Our goal as a business is to make our customers feel like they’re part of our family. If you’re ready to be part of the Stewart Signs legacy, we invite you to reach out to our team of signage professionals today! We have fifty years in the books, and we’re not planning on stopping anytime shortly. Here’s to a hundred years!