Dawn Tiritter-Bent knew she wanted to be a business owner from a young age. In 1988, when she was only 21 years old, Bent decided to leverage her education and experience as a graphic designer with a computer software company and become her own boss by opening Signarama with her brother Michael Ziccardi. 26 years later, the siblings’ sign business at 403 Oakwood Road in Huntington Station is still going strong.
“We thought we’d make a perfect team thanks to our complementary skills – mine in graphic design and Michael’s in engineering,” Bent said. “Since we celebrated our 25th business anniversary last year, I’d say we were right!”
Bent, 47, and Ziccardi, 39, first learned about Signarama from their father who had heard about the company from a friend. Bent met with Signarama founders Roy and Ray Titus, themselves father and son. She was impressed with the brand, the products and the business model and decided it was the right investment for them. Seven years later, in 1995, her brother joined her. “I found the idea of creating 3D advertising to be exciting,” said Bent. “My brother can engineer nearly anything from conceptual designs. It was the perfect brand under which to bring together our skills and business savvy.”
Signarama is the world’s largest sign franchise. The business provides comprehensive sign and graphic services to consumers and commercial customers—from digital, neon, LED and pylon signs to vehicle wraps, banners and monument signs. They also provide branding, messaging and advertising services to help local business grow.
In the 26 years since Bent and Ziccardi launched their business serving Huntington and surrounding communities, they’ve also become New York City licensed sign hangers, opening up a whole other world of opportunities in the five boroughs. They have their own 15,000 square foot manufacturing facility to handle all signage from design, to fabrication, to installation.
With the family’s hard work, they experienced a terrific 2012 and 2013. So much so that they were named Signarama’s Franchisee of the Year at the recent convention.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” says Dawn, “this is not a small system and to have achieved that really made our year. Our philosophy has always been to maintain a diverse client base, which really helped sustain us through the ebb and flow of the economy,” explained Bent. They are also proud of their “Pay It Forward” program, for which they donate signage and graphics to a non-profit in need every month.
“The goodwill we generate is fantastic,” said Ziccardi, “but best of all our employees feel proud to be part of it all.”
With two and a half decades of success behind them, Bent and Ziccardi are still looking towards the future. They have gotten their families involved in the business as well, with seven children between them; Bent’s eldest son, Paul, has been working for their Signarama location since he was 15 and is currently in college, pursuing a business degree in anticipation of joining the family business. The siblings eventually hope to have all their children involved in running and growing their Signarama business.
“We’ve had 26 great years so far,” Bent said, “and once the kids take over I’m sure we’ll have at least 26 more.”