Trinkle Signs to Close Its Doors after 105 Years

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Over the course of its 105-year history, Trinkle Signs and Display has done work for some of the biggest businesses to come out of the Youngstown area.

“We did Arby’s signage nationwide from this little shop. That was probably the most fun because we were shipping stuff all over the country every day,” says owner Bob Page. “Strouss’ department store, we were kind of like a division of that store because we did so much work for them.”

That history will come to an end July 4, Page says, as he closes the shop, 24 Fifth Ave., on his birthday.

“It’s bittersweet. [I’ve been] here a long time [and] worked with my father and I’m kind of sad but happy [to be] doing something else,” Page says. “I’m going to do a little work out of the house; things that are easy and don’t require a bunch of space and my wife and I have gotten into restoring an old lot building and we’re about to start restoring a second one. That’s going to be my part-time retirement job.”

The store was founded in 1915 by Earl Trinkle. Page’s father, Ward Page, joined in the late 1950s and the father and son worked alongside each other for many years.

“He and a partner [Barney Carnes] bought the company. About that time, I’m in high school, [so I was here] helping out and started going to YSU,” Page says. “[I walked] up and down the hill every day and my dad’s partner was the artist, he was getting older, so someone was going to have to take over, so I started working to perfect that skill.”

Among his teachers was Carnes, who started at Trinkle Signs in the 1930s, did sign work not only for Youngstown businesses but lettered buildings and water towers. He also had a small company in southern Ohio consisting of a panel truck that had his equipment, his ladders, brushes, paint and a dark room. He would paint barns for Coca-Cola similar to the work commissioned by Mail Pouch Tobacco.

“He’d paint a barn, take a picture of it, develop the picture in the truck, stick it in the mail to Coca-Cola,” Page says. “When they got it and saw everything done correctly, then they’d put a check in the mail [for him.]”

The skills needed to make signs – not just for businesses, but political campaigns, local institutions like the Youngstown Symphony or YMCA and development groups like Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. – has changed since Page joined the company.

“Originally, when I would lay out a sign for somebody, I would draw it in pencil, lay it out with a brush and now it’s all on the computer,” he says. “Producing it, that’s work, but the fun is [creating] something that works and looks good.” 

Even so, there are still challenges that all customers bring with them, chiefly trying to do too much on a sign, such as angling to fit too much information on it.

“I liked people to keep it simple, so that’s something I stressed,” he says.

With Trinkle Signs’ closing, Page says the building has been sold but did not disclose the buyer or sale price. In the store’s final days, much of the work left to be done is cleaning out the equipment and signs that are stored there. Page says he’s unsure of what he is going to do with the signs. He has already sold one, which was a sign for The New England restaurant that was recycled from Dayton Tires.

The work done at Trinkle Signs has always been well done, quality work, Page says. Customers were treated well and the people who worked together at the business created relationships that will live on. In addition, the business would also draw in “characters” who wanted to take in the work that was being done. 

“In 1988 we had a drought,” he says. “And a lady walked in a long purple robe with a staff [like what a shepherd would have] and claimed she could make it rain. She came to town to make it rain and she was here. She didn’t make it rain.”

His wife, Jane, says she enjoys driving around town and seeing the work her husband as done over the years, and she is proud to be able to say, “Hey, you made that,” whenever they pass one.

“It’s been a good job for him,” she says. “One of my favorites is the Glenwood Corridor sign. It’s striking and he did a sign years ago for Liberty Township at the entrance of [state Route] 193 and it’s a big sign and they’ve landscaped around it and it has a big flag pole. I make a point to look at that every time I go through that intersection.”

Even though there are many more sign shops today, Page has seen with her husband is that he has had an eye for how to lay out a sign so people see it and read it clearly. 

“I’ve seen many signs thinking, ‘I can’t read that.’ I see signs in a way that maybe other people don’t,” she says. “His signs are really laid out nicely and he has a good eye for that. I see that everywhere we go.” 

Pictured: Bob and Jane Page will close Trinkle Signs July 4. Bob Page started at the shop, once owned by his father, while attending YSU.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.