- Bill Antonitis
Automotive Small Business Spotlight
I’ve written a lot about the overall auto market lately, with several posts about the ups and downs we’ve experienced over the past few years. Most of what I’ve explored has centered on macroeconomic factors that affect major corporations. For this post, we’ll highlight a small business in the automotive space, Fred’s Legendary Signs. Owner Fred Macey graciously answered my questions, so if you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to thrive despite the challenges throughout the economy, here’s a positive story of a startup that’s doing things right.
Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your love of cars?
“For as long as I can remember I've had a love for cars. During my childhood most of my family was involved in drag racing. This even included my grandmother who at one time was an NHRA record holder. My father was the original tuner for the Yankee Peddler, one of the more famous drag cars during the mid 60's. Many of my earliest memories were created observing my family racing at drag racing events during the summer months and working on cars during the winter months. Having three older siblings who had a passion for cars definitely had an influence on my love of cars. When I approached the age that I could finally obtain my driver’s license, my love of cars really took off. When I realized that I was going to be able to not only drive a car, but also purchase and drive one of the cars I was very fond of (a 1971 Nova), I was even more hooked. My fondness for cars—especially muscle cars—continues today. These cars bring back memories of my youth, and, from a visual perspective to me personally, they are rolling pieces of artwork that can be modified in various ways all depending on the artistry of the individual who goes through the process of modifying them to their liking. My love of cars also extends to car-related collectibles. I've found that—just like myself—most car collectors love to also collect these items in conjunction with the cars that they own, and, in some respect, worship.”
Please explain a little about your business and product offerings.
“I own and operate Fred’s Legendary Signs LLC, which I started in late 2019. I started it with the intent to offer items for car enthusiasts to display in garages, shops, man-caves and home offices. From its inception I was not only focused on providing high-quality products, but also providing a product that would be hard to distinguish between an actual, originally produced sign from the 60's, 70's & 80's. There are many items available in the category I sell in, but most are easily identifiable as reproductions as the manufacturer did not take the time to replicate the original look and construction. In my opinion, and from the feedback I've received from my customers, my items come very close to reflecting original items verses many of the generics that are available.
Currently I offer LED backlit automotive-themed light boxes that operate via remote control. I design them myself and utilize some of the same methods and materials to create my signs as the manufacturers from years ago. In 2023, I'll be expanding my product offers to include automotive-themed locking key cabinets and ceiling danglers (specifically designed signs that hang from the ceiling). Additionally, I'm in the process of securing licensing agreements with iconic automotive brands and will be showcasing their brands on my items.”
Overall, what is the state of the business right now?
“I continue to see year-over-year growth. The addition of licensing agreements with well known, iconic automotive brands will continue to fuel my growth in the years to come. I'm expanding my marketing, digital media, and social media footprint which will have a significant impact on scaling my business at an accelerated pace.”
How are you affected by challenges like supply chain issues, inflation, and weakening consumer demand?
“My products—like most products being sold today—are being negatively affected by all three of these issues. The wave of supply chain issues has caused major delays, driving material and shipping costs higher. These costs are difficult to pass along to consumers who are battling with the effects of inflation and who are more consumed with making ends meet verses purchasing nonessential items such as mine and others that exist in the same market space. This reflects the mindset of a significant portion of the consumers in the market space; however, I'm still seeing a fair amount of demand, and this is most likely driven by consumers who are less impacted by inflation and the current state of the economy.
Where do you see the market this time next year? In five years?
“I think we will continue to see strain in the market next year until inflation starts to cool and consumers are more comfortable with making purchases of nonessential goods. Again, I think those who aren't so hampered by the effects of the economy will continue to help keep the market fairly strong. I believe as along as a company is offering a product or service that is more desirable to what exists in the marketplace today, they will continue to see growth and higher demand. I have a positive outlook on the market over the next five years, as car lovers generally tend to be great supporters of the products and services in the space, and I don't see that changing or having a dramatic swing in the coming years regardless of the economy.”
What would you like the public to better understand about your business and other small automotive businesses in general?
“We are still growing as a business, and we are a business that was able to survive the impact of the pandemic. During a time when many went under, we continued to have a significant amount of growth. We had a dream and pursued it, and, hopefully in the future, we will be a true success story. I believe no business is actually small. There are many complex pieces to operate and manage a business no matter what the perceived size is. From a sales perspective, I do feel it is important that we support local and small market share, grassroots types of business as a way to elevate their chances of success. In a world where the ‘little guy or gal’ is being squeezed out of many different markets I think it’s important to try to give them a real chance of one day competing with the big guys or gals.”
Because this is an enthusiast publication, what cars are you most excited about right now?
“Because of my background I will always have an affinity for performance-based automobiles. I don't get too hung up on brand loyalty when it comes to which cars I like or dislike. I'm a visual person so the first thing that will excite me about a car is the exterior styling. The car's exterior styling has to make me stop and say ‘wow.’ If it doesn't, my level of interest just doesn't exist. Then add to that styling a high horsepower motor, and I'll be hooked. Recently my level of interest in trucks has spiked, and I'm more excited than ever for the new truck offerings that manufacturers will have in the future.”
Thanks for the interview! Where can people check you out?
“Our website is Fredslegendarysigns.com and we’re @fredslegendarysigns on Instagram & Facebook.”
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.