Not long ago, I travelled to Louisiana to enjoy a two-day visit at the ASI, New Orleans office. This affiliate, owned by Jim and Grace Bishop, provides signage for a variety of clients in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and much of the Florida Panhandle. While Grace heads up the New Orleans office, Jim heads up their other office, located in Houston, which provides signage for much of Texas, including Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
I was in New Orleans to spend time with Grace and her staff to gain a better understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities they encounter in serving their clients, and to discuss marketing programs.
I spent one day touring some of their recent projects outside of New Orleans, including Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. Recently, ASI, New Orleans won prestigious awards in the 2012 Best of ASI Contest including “Best Design-Build Solution,” “Best Interior Solution,“ and “Overall Best of ASI.” Part of their prize for winning the “Overall Best” award was my spending time taking photographs of the winning projects.
ASI, New Orleans Team Is a Family with “Can Do” Spirit
The other day of my visit, getting to know the folks in the New Orleans office, was equally rewarding. Jim and Grace have been ASI affiliates since 1990 when they brought their already existing signage business under the ASI umbrella. Speaking of family, Grace was quick to point out that the Bishops’ team really is a family. Between their two offices, the Bishops’ employ over twenty-five sign professionals. The average tenure is 16 years. One employee recently celebrated his 26th anniversary with the Bishops, and another 22 years.
Grace credits their success to the “can do” spirit of the entire office. This spirit includes strong creative backgrounds of their sales staff and production team, which enables the design of distinctive signage that personifies the unique brand attributes of their clients. The Bishops’ staff also works well with architects and designers, manufacturing their custom-designed signage solutions. In the Bishops’ offices, “can do,” means teamwork, continuous learning, and flexibility, all of which are key to providing successful signage solutions.
Hurricane Katrina and ASI
During my visit, I also had a chance to see a number of their signage project installations around the New Orleans area. Grace’s memories of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Big Easy in August 2005, surfaced. Hurricane Katrina resulted in four feet of water flooding Grace and Jim’s home, with their employees suffering similar distress. ASI, New Orleans is actually located in Kenner, not far from Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport. Just as many homes had flooded, ASI, New Orleans experienced eleven inches of water at the height of the storm. The Bishops were able to obtain trailers that sat in their office parking lot for nearly a year that housed stranded staff while they worked on fixing their homes and helping to bring ASI, New Orleans back to full operation.
Grace was proud of the fact that they never missed a payroll during Katrina’s aftermath because of the combined effort of many. The New Orleans-based employees worked diligently to put all aspects of the business, including sales, design, project management, manufacturing and installation, back into operation. The Bishops’ Houston office became an extension of the sales force. And other ASI affiliates helped out by completing work in process. This combined effort enabled ASI, New Orleans to keep up with orders during this difficult time.
Fortunately, most of New Orleans’ key tourist areas including their world-renowned French Quarter avoided most of the devastating destruction that was experienced by so much of the surrounding area. This enabled tourism to rebound and helped drive critically important economic recovery.
Grace shared one emotional memory concerning New Orleans City Park, which is located in the Mid-City area, including 1,300 acres and serving approximately 14 millions visitors annually. Just two months prior to Hurricane Katrina, ASI, New Orleans completed the installation of exterior signage throughout the park, known for its majestic oak trees, picturesque statues and fountains, sports and recreational facilities along with its Botanical Garden, Storyland fairytale playground and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. As with all of ASI, New Orleans’ exterior projects, the signage was designed to meet extreme wind loads.
New Orleans City Park Didn’t Lose a Single Sign
Grace described seeing Katrina’s damage to New Orleans City Park with fallen oak trees strewn near many of the signs her team had installed. The destruction of the oak trees, many as old as 100-200 years brought an ache to the pit of her stomach. I noticed a tear in Grace’s eye as she recounted that the park ran an advertising campaign a few months after Hurricane Katrina, as City Park struggled to reopen for their annual “Holiday in the Park” event. The ads read, “As long as our signs are still standing, we are open.” Grace proudly added that City Park didn’t lose a single sign during the destruction wrought by the storm.
The Big Easy is back. Yes, New Orleans has changed because of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath with new homes and businesses in place where devastation was felt nearly eight years ago. The levee system has been repaired and then some. The Bishops continue as leaders in the architectural signage industry.
To view additional photos that I took during my visit to the ASI, New Orleans Office just click here.