River. A longtime classic car buff, Straw took his artistic skills to car shows and eventually started selling car decals. He was doing decal work out of his garage in Kiel but needed a commercial building in which to do it, and eventually moved his business to New Holstein. He has been at his present location for about a dozen years.
As the business’ name indicates, JB Signs is a sign shop first. “I’ve been in New Holstein for quite a while,” Straw said, and because of that he and many other people drive past examples of his work every day. The sign he did for Eggert Eye Care in Kiel has a stone-like look but is not. He painted the original sign for The Gravel Pit in Kiel, just redid the sign at Belke Financial Group in New Holstein, and said he likes how his sign came out for the new massage therapy business just up Calumet Drive from his shop. The list could go on and on. “We’re proud of our work,” he said. “You see quite a few examples of our work around.”
With some examples of his work, however, it is not a matter of people driving past a building, but vehicles driving past people or other vehicles. Straw has done lettering and graphics on vehicles for many years, letting people know which business is operating that truck or van— a tremendous source of advertising for those businesses. He said he can still use paint to put those letters or designs on a vehicle, but much of it has gone to vinyl these days.
Straw also said he has done a lot of graphics on motorcycles over the years.
With all the different types of work he is doing now, Straw was asked if has a favorite. He said he likes it when new businesses come to him looking for signage or graphics help because that blank slate allows his creativity to flow. He said he enjoys making customers happy.
One obvious way JB Signs does that is by doing a top quality job. With several years of experience in the business and a graphic arts background going back to 1993, assistant Penny Petrie helps in that regard. Jim’s wife Barb—the other half of the JB Signs name—also continues to help the business go.
Jim said he has seen more “fly-by-night” sign companies pop up and try to get a share of the area market, but quality is where those companies fall short. He has found himself called in by businesses to fix what others did not do right the first time.
Being located in New Holstein, Straw said he wants to and must do a good job for his friends and neighbors. “The sign is the person’s handshake to their customers,” he said.
The territory he serves, however, extends well beyond the city limits of New Holstein, Kiel and Chilton. Laser engraving work which he used to outsource for a store in Illinois can now be done inhouse. And for businesses or organizations near and far away he can do vinyl banners up to 40-plus feet long, digital signs which he said are getting better and less expensive, as well as product and equipment decals and in-store signage.