Adam and David Stiles of Superior Signs and Engraving with their newest printer. Superior was the first in the country to use the large format, energy efficient printer made by a California company. Joe Stumpe The Wichita Eagle
Adam and David Stiles of Superior Signs and Engraving with their newest printer. Superior was the first in the country to use the large format, energy efficient printer made by a California company. Joe Stumpe The Wichita Eagle

Small Business

Father-son printing operation embraces evolving technology to stay competitive

By Joe Stumpe

Eagle correspondent

December 15, 2017 11:07 AM

When David Stiles started Superior Signs, producing a single one-color banner was a good day’s work.

"Now you kick out a four-color one in about 20 to 25 minutes," he said.

For Stiles and his son, Adam, who's now a co-owner, keeping up with the latest technology has been a way to stay competitive.

"It's ever evolving," Adam Stiles said. "You can buy a piece of equipment and two years later, they come out with something twice as good."

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David Stiles bought the sign-making portion of Superior Rubber Stamp & Seal in 1991 and set up shop on Douglas Avenue across from East High. He moved next door for more space, then expanded back into his original space until the operation now takes up about 10,000 square feet.

The company prints signs, banners and promotional items and engraves trophies, plaques, name badges, promotional items and other objects. Behind the front counter and showroom, where some of Superior's products are displayed, sits a mix of old and new equipment, supplies, orders and what looks like a few mementos from the early 1990s.

"It's cluttered," Adam said.

"But clean," David adds. "We keep everything clean."

Indeed, keeping their machines dust-free and well-maintained is a key to productivity. In addition to selling to the public, the shop has the capacity to serve as a wholesale printer for other businesses and also handles some national accounts.

David and Adam do nearly all the printing and engraving jobs themselves, while two more employees handle much of the customer service.

Recently, Superior became the first company to use a new flatbed printer made by Electronics For Imaging, a Silicon Valley-based company that bills itself as the "world's leading developer of UV-and LED-cured wide-format production printers." The technology cures prints at a lower temperature for significant energy savings.

But Adam Stiles said it was the printer's vibrant colors and speed that impressed him. Superior took delivery of the printer and helped EFI test it for a couple of months before it was released to the public.

Speed isn't the only goal, he noted. Trying to go too fast on one printer often decreases quality.

"We would actually rather buy another piece of equipment."

The Stiles plan to add another piece of equipment soon that will greatly expand their ability to print coffee mugs and other cylindrical items.

Adam said he and his father love the location of Superior, which is close both to highways and downtown businesses that are a big part of the clientele. "This is kind of where everything is growing," he said. On the other hand, they're out of room.

The Stiles have followed a couple strategies over the years. One is to diversify and not depend too much on orders from one client or business sector. Another is handling the actual work themselves, since mistakes made by under-trained employees can cost money.

Adam spent many afternoons in the shop as a kid after school, when he wasn't playing sports. A former football kicker for Butler Community College and Baylor University, Adam said he only hesitated a few months after graduating from college before joining the family business.

Asked how the two get along, David smiled and said, "He's got some of the same temper I used to have."

Said Adam: "We butt heads some. But he's always been one who if you get the job done, you're good."

Now you know

SUPERIOR SIGNS AND ENGRAVING

Address: 2130 E. Douglas Ave.

Phone: 316-262-8965

Owners: David and Adam Stiles

Website: superiorsigns.biz