SignCraft Magazine Interview
September/October 1994, page 83

"Judi's Window Painting - Sacramento, California"

Judi Peterson started painting window splashes almost 10 years ago in Sacramento, California. Her business has grown quite a bit since then; with the help of Allen Waite and Dennis Mortensen her shop turns out roughly 1500 window splashes each year. The team recently completed 125 restaurant windows in a two-week period.

"I was selling cars before I started painting windows," says Judi, whose hobbies include gardening and country dancing. "So that's quite a big change [laughter]. I've always enjoyed art, but my lettering skills really needed to be honed quite a bit. I never thought about pursuing an art-related field until one day a friend of mine who is an artist called and asked me to help her paint some Christmas window splashes."

When asked where she learned layout and design, Judi mentions her collection of SignCraft back issues. "I've always been able to draw," she explains. "My mind works like an overhead projector - I can freehand almost anything that I can envision. That's always been my strong suit. The lettering though, I had to work on. The funniest thing was when one of my first customers asked me, "Can you paint, 'Win a VCR'?". And as I was nodding my head I was thinking, "Win? No! No! That's got a 'W' in it! All I can paint is 'Season's Greetings'." [laughter] That's when I started reading SignCraft, paying attention to letters everywhere I saw them, and working on my lettering skills."

SC: Is there a lot of competition for window work in your area?
Judi: There really is. The way I took off was by getting in with a national food chain. Then when you have your name on 40 corners in the same town - I was changing the windows every couple of months and signing all of them - people start to recognize you and look you up when they need a window painted. It worked out well for me. I had to do very little marketing or sales; it just all came in. Pretty soon it grew to the point that I couldn't handle all the work anymore. When I finally decided that I needed help, I knew I wanted to find the most talented artists/sign painters around - and I did!

SC: Why do you think splashes are so popular in California?
Judi: They seem to be more popular in some parts of California than in others. There are a lot here in Sacramento, but my brother-in-law in L.A. says there aren't as many in his area. But the reason I think they're so popular is that they're very inexpensive, considering the amount of advertising value the customer receives. Compared to other forms of advertising, it's a bargain. A splash pull sin the customer who is driving past a business - it makes them turn around and pull in the parking lot. I don't know of any other type of advertising that can do that. I guess I should say that they work like that when they're painted properly. The people you're trying to catch are streaking past at 30 to 50 mph, so they only have an instant to catch what you're selling. That's what I try to keep in mind when I'm prioritizing copy.

SC: You're very easy to talk to, and it seems like you really enjoy working with people. Is the "customer relations" aspect of the business fun for you?
Judi: [laughter] Well, it is. I like being helpful. Sometimes we get calls from people who want to paint their windows themselves, and even in those cases I'll give them the information and let them try and find out. Invariably, a couple of months down the road they'll call back and say, "Remember us? We're the ones who tried to paint our own window. Now we're ready to call you. Will you please come and paint our window for us?" I think that if you're thoughtful, considerate, and help people out, it will come back around.

I try to do everything real custom and unique, and add a lot of artwork - the kind of stuff you don't see everywhere else, even though it adds to the cost. I'd rather put in the extra time and have a really neat piece of advertising than to make more money and do a generic job.

SC: If there was something you could change about your business, or the window splash business in general, what would it be?
Judi: My pet peeve is busy signs that are unreadable. There's a street here in town that has splash after splash after splash with so much copy that you can't read anything - it's just this offensive blast of color. I'm trying to use less color and end up with an effective, clean piece of advertising that's still bright enough to be eye-catching. I'll use one or two fluorescent colors, black and white, then a latex color that's blue, or teal, or purple, or something like that.

There's one other thing, too - I'd change all the stores that have rose bushes or holly in front of them. [laughter] Those thorns hurt when you sit on them! Other than that, it's really a fun business. I like working outside, I like being in a different place every day. It's an exciting life - every place I go somebody comes up and says, "Oh, you're Judi the window painter!"