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Dick Beebe Dedication Page

Beebe signs as depicted in this page was sold several years ago. Mr. Dick Beebe passed away on February 22, 2009 and this page has been put back on this web site as a dedication to my friends Dick and Rick Beebe.

When Quality Counts.

Beebe Signs Logo - Designed by Rick & Dick Beebe
5845 Mt. Vernon, Portage, Michigan 49081


10,000 racers can't be wrong!
Mr. Dick Beebe, founder of Beebe Signs and Marc Times Racing News

The crowds that lined the rugged road between Paris and Bordeaux, France, to watch the first-ever auto race in 1895 saw no hint of them. But at modern race tracks, they're everywhere.

"They" are signs - names, numbers and sponsors' logos that pepper the cars and equipment of today's racers. Most fans pay little attention to the origin of these signs. Yet even that corner of auto racing has its history-and more recently, its revolution.

Rick and Dick Beebe using vinyl lettering to letter a BestWay Disposal truck

"It's an industry that grows a lot," said Dick Beebe, co-owner and president of Beebe Signs in Kalamazoo. Established in 1950, Beebe Signs creates custom vinyl lettering, designs and signage for racing and commercial industries.

Beebe knows about the sign industry's growth: he's been involved in it for nearly half a century. From its genesis in hand-lettering, the industry now employs the latest computer technology and durable - not to mention colorful - materials.

Mike Frazier, Beebe Signs, removing vinyl lettering from die sublimination printer

"[Computers] changed the sign industry like that," Mike Frazier, Beebe Signs' graphic artist, said with a snap of his fingers.

"Old-timers were afraid that computers would destroy them," added Rick Beebe, co-owner and manager, and Dick's son. "But it's actually a way to build on hand-painting talent, not eliminate it,"

The revolution began in the mid-1980s, when the first machines for cutting letters from adhesive vinyl emerged. Frazier was working for a graphics design firm that bought one. When he showed it to the Beebe's - both long-time hand-painters - the two businessmen quickly invested in the technology.

Two things sold Dick on the change: the huge time savings and the durability of vinyl

Dick and Rick letting in Vinyl.

"We used to do all hand-painted things. We rarely hand-paint anymore," he said.

In hand-painting, Rick added, "we had to wait for the paint to dry to outline or airbrush [a design]. You were always waiting on yourself."

Dick made the same observation, but from the customer's perspective. With vinyl, "you're not holding up [the customer] in his business," he said. What used to take up to two days to hand paint now takes two hours.

Dick Beebe (standing), with son Rick Beebe (kneeling), next to race car they just finished lettering.

"Speed is an attribute at Beebe Signs," Rick acknowledged. He noted how, in some cases, Beebe Signs, finishes a project before a customer makes it back home after dropping off the job. "You can't make money on something that's sitting on the table."

Using a standard personal computer, Graphics Advantage software and a Gerber Edge cutter, Beebe Signs can create custom vinyl designs that rival the airbrushed creations of most talented artists. Frazier said the system can even reproduce photographs - in one case, he used an accurate vinyl reproduction to make a sprint car appear to have an open engine cowling.

Much of Beebe's work is geared toward auto racing. With 28 race tracks and 84 divisions in Michigan alone, there's plenty of business potential. One year, Rick said, Beebe did signs and lettering for 30 track champions.

Patriot Motorsports race car, lettered  by Dick and Rick Beebe at Beebe Signs. Race car is at Special Olympics golf charity event. Click on picture to see larger version for more detail.

Racing is in Dick's blood. His father built the Galesburg Speedway and he required numbers on the cars so the judges could keep track of them.

"The mechanics were painting numbers on the cars," Beebe recalled. "They weren't too good."

Dick had been flexing his artistic muscle since grade school, when he was often asked to decorate chalk boards for the holidays. When lettering and numbering became necessary for race car drivers, Dick practiced his craft in a world he loved. He was soon lettering for NASCAR racers including Richard Petty - incidentally, the first NASCAR driver to use vinyl decals instead of paint.

"Every sign person I ever worked with I learned something from," said Dick. He merged his own talent with what he picked up from others - use of colors, design ideas and artistic attitudes.

Rick has fond memories of those days and his entry into the business.

"Being a kid, being in the way, holding what used to be paints, him [Dick] coming to trust me, basically evolving into it," he said with a smile.

After an auto accident injured Dick, his son - then reconsidering his own work - signed on. With Frazier aboard as well, Beebe signs has seen growth in its business and its technological abilities.

"We find out what our customers' needs are and fulfill those needs, whether it be cost effectiveness or short timetables," Dick explained. "We keep up with the technology available and always do the extra explanation on every aspect of the customers' needs so they can reach a choice along with us to make it a complete team effort."

Rick Beebe showing graphics imprinted on clothing. 

While much of Beebe's work is geared toward auto racing, they've also done lettering and designs for Eaton Corporation, Pharmacia and Upjohn, local fire departments and towing companies, to name a few.

Keeping pace with the market, the competition and the technology are the key goals for Beebe Signs.

"I'd like to be able to get a mobile unit going." said Dick. "There are so many different areas you can go to, and if the business doesn't come in you go out after it." The mobile unit would tour the NASCAR circuit.

Rick said he hopes to build on Beebe's wholesale business - providing lettering and designs to other entrepreneurs who apply them. Mike Frazier's dream is to tap into the internet, giving Beebe Signs a presence on the World Wide Web.

The possibilities are endless, Rick said. "You're only limited by yourself."


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