Posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2021
Car dealerships depend on marketing and promotions to bring buyers in, and signs are a very affordable way to do that. Compared to TV, radio and print ads, signs and graphics are far lower in cost and last much longer. For years, signs for car dealership showroom windows and windshields were a big part of Eddie Lewis’s business, Eddie Lewis Signs, in Swainsboro, Georgia.
“I did showroom windows and windshields in the area for about 20 years,” says Eddie. “They’re great advertising for the dealers, and I always enjoyed doing them.”
Eddie found this market by accident—or should we say that it found him. He and his wife had bought a car at the Dublin Cadillac/GMC/Nissan dealership in Dublin, Georgia. When he stopped back in the dealership, the salespeople were having a sales meeting. As he passed by he heard someone say, “There’s the answer to our prayers…” then called him over. It was the manager.
He recognized the manager because Eddie had done sign work for him at the dealership in Swainsboro. He explained that they wanted to start doing sales around local and national events and asked if Eddie could do the window signs. Eddie agreed, and for the next eight or nine years, he did the showroom windows every 90 days with new graphics.
“Along with the main showroom windows,” Eddie says, “there were five sets of secondary windows that I coordinated with the graphics on the main window. Maybe it was a holiday or football season or some special sale, but they all were used.
“Those big windows are like billboards—all they need is painted. They’re a great way to draw people’s attention from the traffic passing by. Some managers realize that and others don’t. It’s the same with painting the windshields. I did a lot of windshields, too, for six or eight dealerships. Sometimes I would do 75 to 100 windshields on one lot.
“I had a system that let me do them fast. I had a tray with five or six colors of paint that were thinned just right and a can of thinner. I cleaned all the windshields then started painting them one at a time. I just rinsed the brush out quickly and switched colors as I wanted. You have to have a system to make money doing windshields.”
For the showroom windows, the manager would send Eddie the theme and the copy a couple of weeks in advance so that he could work up a layout. Sometimes, though, they didn’t even have any copy written and they would tell Eddie to “just do something around springtime.” Eddie would create the theme and write the copy.
After cleaning the windows with denatured alcohol, Eddie did the lettering in 1 Shot lettering enamel on the outside of the glass. Occasionally he would use computer-cut vinyl for the secondary copy.
Eddie kept the showroom windows painted with advertising until that manager retired. Eddie decided it might be a good time to do the same, so in 2008 he quit doing splashes for the dealership. He continued doing window splashes for a few other customers.
After high school, Eddie attended the Atlanta Art Institute. But in south Georgia in the 1960s there weren’t many opportunities for a commercial or fine artist so he took a job with UPS. He started as a driver and worked his way up to a manager. Later he went to work for the Southern Company, a utility that owns Georgia Power. All the while he still painted signs.
“I just turned 80,” Eddie says. “I haven’t quit—I’ve just slowed down. I still enjoy painting signs.”
Along with the car dealerships, Eddie did window splashes for a variety of local businesses–antique shops, furniture stores and other retailers: