My name is Steve Earle and I am now the managing director of Kemp Signs. Over 135 years ago, Charles Kemp founded his sign business at 87 Bishopsgate in the City of London, employing the traditional values of loyalty and a personalised customer service. Most of the work in the early days was carried out in the banks and shipping offices of the square mile where 22 carat gold leaf was the order of the day. Before the times of motorised vehicles, horse drawn carts were another feature of the business where apart form being sign written, decorative lining was painted on the wheels and bodywork. Most pubs and inns in those days were beautifully grained before the sign writing was carried out, this was another aspect of the signwriters job.
In 1911 when Mr Charles Kemp Senior retired, his son Charles Kemp carried on with the business, moving it a short distance along to 274 Bishopsgate, where it remained until after the outbreak of of World War II. In 1942 it moved to 161 Commercial Street, it was at this time he went into partnership with with a Mr George Martin, who was a first class signwriter. My father, Mr Stanley Earle joined the company in 1946 at the age of 14 as an apprentice and was taught the trade by skilled craftsmen. My father recalls that at that time wooden letters were very much in vogue with them either being gilded or painted to perfection.
There were also many signwriting contracts carried out including the writing of the train indicator signs for Great Eastern Region Railways at Liverpool Street Station, and the colourful signs for the traders at Spitalfields Market.
When Mr Martin retired from the business in 1971, my father took over and the business moved to its present location at 32 Shacklewell Lane, London. At this time, the type of work undertaken was broadened to include silk screen process printing and so a new company called Regent Advertising was formed within the Kemp group to deal specifically with all print jobs, in 2004 this name was amalgamated into Kemp Signs Ltd.
I joined the company in 1986, straight from school as a trainee designer and stencil cutter, it was at this time that the company joined the computer age with the purchase of our first sign making robot. Today we specialise in designing signs that require an innovative approach to manufacture, using state of the art technology including cnc routing and engraving along with colour digital printing.
"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money... that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the things it was bought to do.
The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot... it cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk of the run, and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for the something better."
John Ruskin (1819-1900)
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices is forgotten.