Blain Buchanan Signs: An island to himself

24 March 2022

Blain Buchanan of Blain Buchanan Signs in O’Leary, P.E.I., founded his shop 19 years ago and is looking forward to expanding his services in the future. Photos courtesy Blain Buchanan

By Courtney Bachar

Blain Buchanan began his career in signmaking 19 years ago by hand painting signs and murals for fishing boats, as well as chainsaw carving. Located in the Town of O’Leary, PEI, Buchanan’s shop started in his basement. He said the name of his shop, Blain Buchanan Signs, was a no-brainer since everyone knew him by name. Within a year, Buchanan had outgrown his space, and, in May 2003, he built a two-story 6- x 6-m (20- x 20-ft) shop to accommodate his growing business. When he moved into the new shop, he added trophies since a local trophy shop owner had retired and there was a need for this service. Six years later, business was booming, and Buchanan had to double his space by adding another 6- x 6-m (20- x 20-ft). He then added another 3.6- x 6-m (12 x 20-ft) to allow for new equipment and better workflow in the shop. “This space has now been working for years,” he said.

Sign Media Canada (SMC): What makes your company unique? 

Blain Buchanan (BB): My company is unique because we produce both signs and trophies for seven small communities and everywhere in between. 

SMC: How large is the facility? (square footage, number of employees, etc.

BB: I’m a one-man show that has been able to expand my space over the years to accommodate the expanding services, as well as adding additional equipment and a safe space to work. My shop is now about 96.6 m² (1040 sf).

SMC: What type of signage does your shop primarily install?

BB: We do mostly banners, murals for boats, vehicle decals, aluminum-faced signs, corrugated plastic signs, and some refacing of lit signs, among a lot of personal items.   

SMC: What type of projects have you been working on recently? 

Buchanan designs, creates, and installs signs for businesses throughout the local communities, including this one for Freddy’s Pub a Man Cave in his home.

BB: I’ve been working on mostly banners, aluminum business signs, and COVID-19 decals.

SMC: How much of the sign installation process is handled in-house?

BB: I do everything myself. If there is a big job, I have local carpenters that I can call if I need a hand, which saves me on paying a staff member.

SMC: What tools/equipment do you currently use to complete your projects?

BB: I have a 609 mm (24 in.) vinyl cutter, a Roland SG 540 Print/Cut Printer, a Fletcher Wall Mounted Panel Cutter, A 1625 mm (64 in.) Master Laminator, and a full woodworking shop of tools for any building or carving needs.

Blain Buchanan has had to expand his workspace over the years to allow for more equipment and better workflow.

SMC: What does your planning process involve? 

BB: I do it all from taking the call or email to the design, then on to the production of the sign and installation if needed.

SMC: How is technology changing your business? 

BB: Having a digital printer and vinyl cutter is like having two employees. While I am working on the designs, the machines are hard at work bringing my ideas to life. This allows me to produce a lot more work and gives the shop better workflow. 

SMC: What is the key to staying successful in this industry? 

BB: The key to staying successful, no matter what industry you’re in, is always listen to your customers and their needs. A happy customer is one that will always come back.

SMC: What are the future plans for your business? 

Buchanan created this sign for the O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department, of which he has been a member for 31 years.

BB: There are always places to find a need for my products. Most of the time, customers ask me if I can do this or that and, in a lot of cases, this is where I find new ideas of where I would like to take my business. With all the new equipment being developed, I have been thinking of adding a CNC or plasma table to my arsenal in the future. 

SMC: How has COVID-19 affected your business? How did the shop cope? 

BB: COVID-19 has affected the trophy side of business a lot, but, funny enough, the signage side has done well. COVID signs and decals for masks, etc, are in such high demand and has made up the difference and then some as of to date.  

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