Howard Bertram

Carefree, Arizona


Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2020

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First featured:
September/October 1993

Shop name:
Bertram Signs & Graphics

Shop size: 1400 sq. ft.

Staff: Howard and Dave

Age: 69

Graphics equipment:
Epson SureColor S80600 printer
Camaster Stinger II CNC router
Graphtec CE5000-60 plotter
SignLab 10 software

On Facebook as Bertram Signs & Graphics
The biggest change since our work last being in SignCraft is that we’ve expanded the types of work that we do. While we used to do primarily painted and vinyl signs, we’ve progressed into bigger projects. We’re doing CNC-routed signs, backlit signs, halo-lit letters and large anodized aluminum letters. Of course, we still do business cards, logo design and all the other work we’ve always done. We’re more of a one-stop signs and graphics company now.

Some of that is due to my son, Dave, who has worked with me for quite a while. He’s a great mechanic and handles all types of fabrication. He also has expanded our market with these other types of work. My younger son, Matt, is in media, so he took off in a completely different direction. He’s on the radio instead of in the sign shop.

We’re still in our little building and turning out a lot of work. At 1400 sq. ft., it’s small but we make the space work—plus in Arizona, you can work outside most of the year. Carefree is a neat place to be, and it’s a growing little town. We’re about 30 miles from Scottsdale and Phoenix, and there’s plenty going on to keep us busy.

We do a lot of Western-themed work, inspired by the signs and designs of the late 1800s. It really fits out here, plus I’ve always enjoyed the history of that period, which they call the “Golden Era.”

The image on our logo is my great-grandfather, Charles Edgar Bertram. He was a New York City mounted policeman in 1890. He was also a woodworker, and I have his handmade toolbox and his tools. That got me interested in the history—and the sign work— of that era. I like that look.

I’m 69 now, and Dave has been trying to kick me out of here for a while—which is fine with me. I seem to spend most my time talking to customers, doing some design and the occasional hand-lettered job. I’ve always enjoyed the design end of the business best. I really enjoy doing the hand-lettered vintage signs when I get the opportunity.

I’ll be retiring before too long, and that’s okay. I won’t be one of those guys who sits around on the couch and gets depressed. I’ve got plenty of things I want to do!

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