By Joey Gomez
Photos By Ivan Xavier Ramirez
A business with no sign, is a sign of no business. Ruben Cepeda has operated The Sign Depot with the belief that when it comes to business if you’re different, you just may stand out enough to succeed.
Maybe it’s the nature of his business, but Cepeda instantly delivers a number of clever phrases that best describe the philosophy he has established for dealing with clients over the last six years.
“Any business, no matter if it’s closed or open, needs a sign. If you’re going out of business, you’re going to need a sign that says ‘going out of business’,” he says. “The stronger the image, the stronger the sale. I tell my customers, if I close my fist, you have no idea if it’s a penny or a diamond, the only way you’re going to know is if I open my hand. I have to show people.”
Born in Monterrey, Mexico but raised in Detroit, Cepeda has co-owned Sign Depot with his twin brother, Raul, since 2006. The business’ roots go even deeper, dating back to 1988 when Ruben lent Raul $350 to begin a vehicle detailing business.
Going by the moniker “the incredible Dr. Stripes”, Raul would add pin-striping to cars and trucks, and eventually established Trim Plus, the business that would later become the Sign Depot.
Sign Depot is now located in Edinburg, Pharr and Austin, and is a one-stop shop for banners, yard signs, vehicle magnets and wraps, as well as a number of services dedicated to the marketing and advertising of businesses and organizations.
The brothers continue to run automobile oriented businesses along with Sign Depot.
“We have a saying that if we hadn’t been born, we would have had to have been invented,” Cepeda says. “In a nutshell, we’re off the wall, we’re different, but we like it that way.”
Color, innovation and a willingness to be more unique than competitors, have been the primary goals for the business. Those factors, along with hard work, determination and patience will steer the business into the future, and hopefully develop the business into a franchise, Cepeda says. The company is entirely located in the Rio Grande Valley.
“There can be 1,000 people in the room, if I walk in there what’s going to happen? Well, they’re going to turn around and look at me. You get your remarks, but you laugh all the way to the bank. You have to stand out in this business. That’s our philosophy.”
Sign Depot is a 2009 McAllen “Top 5” business, which it won over the more than 14,000 businesses located in the region. The company is an accredited Better Business Bureau member, and is currently in the top-10 percent of all businesses in the BBB, Cepeda says.
“A business relationship can last longer than a sale. A sale is instantly forgotten, but when you build a relationship and you help that customer grow, when you have made a difference in their lives, they are going to remember you tomorrow. That’s the difference with Sign Depot.”
The company is a regular fixture at community events including McAllen’s annual Business Expo, where the tradition has become to donate a free vehicle wrap to one lucky attendee a the conference. Sign Depot is also active in planning for the various parades and community events including Palm Fest in McAllen.
“We do not think in letters, we think in pictures. If I tell you to think of a strawberry ice cream cone, you’re not immediately thinking about the word, you’re thinking of a picture. That’s why image is so important.”