CORNELIUS – Scott Crosbie thought he had a nice little niche sign business eight years ago.

It’s become much more and is enjoying tremendous growth and expansion in a booming region.

Crosbie’s company - Artisan Signs and Graphics - started in 1993 as a sign business exclusively for homebuilders. It served the needs of a growing real estate community in Charlotte.

Crosbie, however, recognized the importance of expanding his scope, so he moved company headquarters from Charlotte to 18335 Old Statesville Road in 2003 as he looked for ways to increase profits. Business has taken off since the move to Cornelius, Crosbie said.

New technology – including three state-of-the-art, wide-format printers – highlight the company’s four-year-old graphics design and apparel department. Signs for homebuilders, once Artisan Graphics’ sole offering, now make up 35 percent of the business.

“It’s really cool that we started off as a niche business, but we’ve managed to grow and fight through a few recessions,” he said.

Spending less time making signs has also helped. Crosbie pointed to better technology and development as being the catalyst for making signs 70 percent faster than in previous years. The time the 38-person company saves goes into filling more orders.

The company's customer base has risen substantially since production times decreased and technology and company offerings – like in-house design and production plus delivery and installation – expanded. Crosbie said the company has 250-500 customers annually, and fills about 2,000 orders.

“The interesting thing is, there’s no template,” he said. “Every order is different. Where we once asked a customer, ‘How many colors are in your order?’ Now it doesn’t matter.

“You used to have about 10 colors to choose from. You’d cut them from vinyl and apply by hand. Now, we just print directly to the surface and you can use any color and as many different ones as needed.”

Sales Manager David Keith, who has been with the company for 17 years, said the demand for services continues to increase.

“We’re fulfilling both (needs for signs and retail/graphics),” he said.
“People have said we’re a one-stop shop. That’s kind of what we do for the signage. I take a lot of pride that we’ve done it the right way and we’ve built a good reputation.”

Crosbie said the company’s portfolio and client base aren’t the only things on the rise. The bottom line is also looking up. While he declined to divulge annual revenue, Crosbie said the company’s profit margins grew by 14 percent last year compared to 2011.

He forecasts a similar growth this year, but ending the year in the black is nothing new.

Crosbie said the company has endured one rough year, 2009, in the midst of the recent economic recession and before the company added more products. 

“We’ve grown every year since then,” he said. “It’s definitely something we’re proud of. We like being a part of this community.”

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