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Signs for the times

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By Cindy DiFazio

Clark and Melinda Sampson, along with son Jimmy are kept hopping at their burgeoning business in Eminence.

Affordable Signs & Apparel opened at the corner of Main Street and Eminence Road  in April. Sampson said there is a huge advantage to having a brick and mortar storefront in town.

For instance, a motorcycle club representative came in at the spur of the moment to purchase t-shirts for a fun-run event. And, when the City of Eminence needed a new Music on Main banner, Sampson could deliver within one business day.

Affordable Signs & Apparel has formed a partnership with several school districts to produce logoed sportswear and accessories. Besides Henry County and Eminence schools, they have done work for Carroll, Shelby and Jefferson counties. “We can do team uniforms, t-shirts, embroidered hats, signs and banners,” he said. “and we have a relationship with the booster clubs.” They do not charge school districts any fee to keep their fund-raising items in-stock.

Melinda’s specialty is custom embroidery on regular or team-coordinated items such as backpacks, purses, stadium pillows and even a football purse.

Customer Judy Milliner said she is delighted to have Affordable Signs & Apparel in Eminence. She came in to pick up several personalized Henry County school-themed items for her daughter and grandson. “Before they opened the only place I could buy these things was at events,” Milliner said. “This is easy.”

Clark Sampson said convenience doesn’t have to be a luxury. “We’ll have it right here at the store so people have the opportunity during the week to get their stuff,” he said, “and we’ll personalize it while you wait.”

When the couple began producing screen printed and embroidered designs out of their Pt. Pleasant Road home five years ago, it was strictly part-time.

Clark Sampson has worked more than 20 years for Shelby County EMS and Melinda worked for Dr. Koff in New Castle.

The pair rented the Main Street space on a whim when they saw their business had outgrown their home. “It just so happened we came up and looked at the place,” he said. “We weren’t out searching. It just happened.”

When they first opened they had only one computer, some signs on the window and a few curious customers per day, but last Friday there was a steady stream of both walk-ins and pre-order customers. The owner of Quail Run subdivision stopped in to check on realty sign installations.

Eminence city workers were busy down the street hanging the Music on Main Street banner. Clark Sampson made and donated the new banner.

One couple simply browsed.

Melinda Sampson now runs Affordable Signs & Apparel full-time. She is chief financial officer, business manager and a creative force to be reckoned with. “She is the boss so we jumped right in,” Clark Sampson said. “It’s been a blessing to us for awhile. We anticipated it would be a side business, but it grew.”

He has begun the process of retiring from EMS to devote more of his energies to the endeavor. Clark Sampson may have to speed up that process.

He designed a specialty white board for hospital room use and has been contracted by Norton Hospitals to produce them for their facilities. Sampson already delivered an order for Jewish Hospital in Shelbyville.

Jimmy Sampson is the third piece of the family puzzle. He graduated from Henry County High School and attends Jefferson Community Technical College in Shelbyville.

Jimmy also is an integral part of the business. Besides on-the-job training from his mother and father, he has taken screen-printing and related classes in both high school and college.

Jimmy Sampson coaches HCMS football and plans to teach special education and continue coaching.

Clark Sampson believes that opening the store in the most densely populated area in Henry County will pay off. “I’m glad we did. Our clientele has increased 25-30 percent,” he said. “We could not have picked a better location.”

Affordable Signs & Apparel is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Clark can be reached at (502) 706-1845 and Melinda’s number is (502) 706-1843. Visit them online at affordable-signs@bellsouth.net.