Q&A with Paul Tripp, President of Classic Signs Inc. and the NSSA

Paul Tripp speaks to the growth happening in the sign industry and what attendees can expect from the 2021 NSSA NORTHEAST SIGN EXPO, co-located with GRAPHICS PRO EXPO in New Jersey

Having started his sign career in 1977, Paul Tripp has seen the sign industry change and grow over the years. Apprenticing under the late Thomas Bissonnette for over 12 years, he honed his skills in woodcarving, hand lettering, design, metal/wood fabrication, and post-hole digging. In March of 1989, Tripp opened Classic Signs Inc., a one-stop sign shop located in Amherst, New Hampshire.

Tripp’s expertise in the sign industry has earned him several sign design awards, including those from The New Hampshire Sign Association, The United States Sign Council, and The Builders Association of Greater Boston. He’s served multiple terms as president of the New Hampshire Sign Association, has sat on the MACK Awards Committee for several years, served two three-year terms on the United States Sign Council Board of Directors, and currently serves as a director for the Northeast States Sign Association (NSSA).

If you haven’t already heard, GRAPHICS PRO EXPO is co-locating with the NSSA NORTHEAST SIGN EXPO, July 15-16. Registered attendees can attend both events for free, plus take advantage of a full schedule of training. In addition, on July 16 from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., Tripp, NSSA directors, and members present a panel discussion titled Planning for Your Company’s Future Resiliency.

To learn more about the panel, what attendees can expect from the event, and Tripp’s experience in the sign industry over the last 40+ years, we sat down to chat with him.

Q: Being in the sign industry for over 40 years and president of Classic Signs for more than 30, what has it been like watching the sign industry change over the last four decades?

Short answer … exciting! Coming from the “days of old” when everything was hand-crafted, carved, and lettered, and ledgers were written in pencil, today’s technology has made things dramatically more efficient. While I do miss the craft of signmaking a little, being in business and watching ideas become realities — and helping other businesses thrive as a result of your own imagination — proves to be a higher source of satisfaction.

Q: Specifically looking back on the last year’s events, what changes and growth are happening in the sign industry right now?

This past year the sign industry has gained a greater resolve to hold fast onto the things that are important. As the saying dictates: When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Re-focusing our product lines, tightening our financial belts, and investing in the welfare of our employees (who are our most important asset) pays back dividends beyond measure. Now that the economy has begun to bounce back, I see the industry poised to grow at a rate to rival the “Reagan years.” While there have been few significant product/equipment changes (other than steady micro improvements) over the past decade, the greatest change I see is the increased determination to work smarter and faster, with a keen eye to the bottom line. The old days of the “drunken signwriter” are way past us, and the level of quality products and an overall increase of professionalism have put our industry on the map of desired career opportunities.

Q: As the Northeast States Sign Association president, what has it been like supporting and educating sign businesses over the last 15 months?

Short answer … difficult! Let’s face the facts: With the world on hold, most people have been in survival mode.  Education requires time and money, both of which most companies haven’t had as a large resource. Online training has been the only way to support and train companies and employees. The NSSA affiliation coupled with the ISA education resources has been critical in helping us support our membership.

Q: With in-person trade shows back in full force, specifically the co-located event with GPX/NSSA in July in New Jersey, what are you most looking forward to, and what can attendees expect to see?

The answer is obvious for all who have been squirreling away in our corner of the landscape. Face-to-face meetings, connecting with one another, and holding meaningful conversations without a mask or from the other side of a computer screen will be welcomed. Nothing can replace getting our hands on a new product or seeing equipment actually working. The combination of our two “cousin” industries will open possibilities for companies to see what is available for new business development.

Q: During the co-located event, NSSA is hosting a panel titled Planning for Your Company’s Future Resiliency. Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’ll be digging into during that discussion?

The panel discussion is designed to spark conversation as to how we can position our companies in preparation for the next disaster. Learning from the events of the past year will be the springboard toward creative and effective ideas. The next crisis could be from natural causes such as an earthquake, hurricane, or fire. It might come from labor shortages or a stock market crash. Quite certainly, the sudden death of a key employee would set your company back. Identifying your most vulnerable areas and being prepared for the worst is vital to any company’s resiliency.

Q: What makes a partnership like GRAPHICS PRO EXPO and NORTHEAST SIGN EXPO special?

As previously mentioned, bringing two cousin graphic industries together under one roof, supporting and sharing resources is an example of re-focusing business and demonstrating resiliency. The joint show will present abundant opportunities for new business development, creating a win-win for our industry companies and association members. This being the first joint venture of its kind brings a high expectation that this model could be replicated throughout all areas of the country and act as a model for other industries.

Register for GPX Meadowlands, co-located with NSSA NORTHEAST SIGN EXPO, here.


Alexandria Bruce

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