Profile: Tom Marsh
Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada
By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Brushstrokes Signs & Awnings
2,000 sq. ft.
Roland VersaCAMM SP-540V printer
Royal Sovereign laminator
Gerber Edge printer
Gerber Omega software
I was introduced to the sign business when I was about 10 years old. My cousin, Dick Marsh owns Libra Signs in Quesnel, BC. I worked there after school and on Saturdays, coating out boards and cleaning up. I soon became fascinated with hand lettering and the general layout procedures of painting signs and trucks.
I worked there till I was 17 when I left to pursue my other career: hockey.
I played Junior Hockey for the next three years in Seattle, then played for three years at the university in Brandon, Manitoba. I returned home to Quesnel, British Columbia, in the summer to work again at the sign shop and develop my lettering skills.
Hockey was my main focus through the next several years. I had the opportunity to try out for the Canadian Olympic Hockey team. Although I didn’t make the Olympic team, I did go to Europe, where I played professional hockey for the next three years. All the while, I kept up with the sign industry through a new magazine, SignCraft.
After moving back to Canada in 1985, I became a full-time hockey coach and started my first shop, City Sign, in Quesnel, BC. I moved to Salmon Arm in 1988 to continue coaching Junior Hockey. One of the team owners owned a large trucking company, and I lettered trucks almost daily before practice.
I continued doing more trucks and signs while coaching hockey. After three years and with a young family, I started Brushstrokes Signs & Awnings in a small shed in my back yard.
In 1990 I moved downtown to a shop of 800 sq. ft. Len Dies, a friend and hockey teammate, joined me in 1991. He’s been here since, doing it all—fabrication, electrical and installation, as well as design.
In 2001, I designed and built our new shop. It was my dream to have a nice shop that represents the business in a professional way. We organized the shop to streamline production and keep track of inventory. We get a lot of compliments on our shop, and I know it helps sell signs to our customers.
We are a four-person shop. Jodie, my wife, works up front and does the bookkeeping. Len, after 25 years of working together, is our main man. Jamie Walters joined us three years ago and does installations and screen printing.
Our son Riley grew up around the sign shop and has worked at Brushstrokes on and off for the past 5 years. He was a great addition, doing layout and auto graphics. However he left to play hockey and go to college. He seems to have caught the bug and is developing the skills. He is presently working at a sign shop in Prince George, B.C.
We do a variety of work from everyday industrial signs to design and fabrication of backlit signs, channel letters and storefront awnings. We do a lot of vehicle graphics, striping and wraps as well as screen printing, which includes plenty of t-shirts and sports apparel. In a small community diversity is important. You need to provide whatever your customer needs.