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80 Years of Tradition

Throughout our history, the nation’s leading brands have trusted us to create signs that send the right message, at the right moment. Because we know you might only have three seconds to make a first impression. And ultimately, a lasting one.

Even though the name and employees have changed over time, the company’s goal stays the same. Our goal is helping you achieve more. We are dedicated to serving our clients by delivering high-quality signs while providing legendary customer service. Below is a brief history of major events in North American Signs’ 80 years of rich tradition.

An advertisement for South Bend Neon from the 1940s
An advertisement for South Bend Neon from the 1940s

North American Signs was founded in 1934 by the late Maurice P. Yarger as “South Bend Neon.” He built North American Signs upon the belief that the quality of our work is intrinsically linked to the quality customers will associate with your brand, starting with the first time they experience it. Maurice ran his local business with the utmost integrity. Tom Yarger, his youngest son, recalls that “people from around the community told us how  much they enjoyed working with [Maurice] and that they admired how he was always honest and forthright when doing business.”

During the early years, the company specialized in neon signs for local General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler dealers, as well as local department stores and other retail businesses. The company had several skilled neon benders that created customized signs for businesses throughout the community.

When Maurice Yarger passed away in 1959., his two sons, Tom and Noel, returned from their schooling in North Carolina and England, respectively. At a meeting with family and friends who were local businessmen, it was decided that Noel would run the business. As a 21 year old, running a business seemed overwhelming at times. However, with guidance from family friends, he was able to continue South Bend Neon and keep the values that his father instilled in the company. Tom, 18 years old at the time, returned to his studies at Duke University after assisting his mother at home after the loss of Maurice. Tom began to work at North American Signs in 1968 after he had obtained his MBA from the University of Chicago and taught undergraduate business at Valparaiso University.

Noel and Tom operated as equals when running the company. Having learned from their father, they were always respectful of each other even when having different opinions. “We used our strengths and areas of expertise,” said Tom Yarger. Noel was more involved in sales while Tom focused on accounting. The Yarger brothers sought to build the company and grow the business. They wanted to continue what their father had started. They did this by staying true to the values that Maurice instilled in the company while also approaching the sign business with innovative ideas that added value to their services.

From left to right, Tom Yarger, Joe Bacman, Bill Chenoweth, Bill Oiler, Noel Yarger, Dick Crawford, Jim North, and Don Jesswien.
From left to right, Tom Yarger, Joe Bachman, Bill Chenoweth, Bill Oiler, Noel Yarger, Dick Crawford, Jim North, and Don Jesswien.

In 1974 the company changed its name to North American Signs. This change represented the company’s shift to performing national signage programs for large  retail companies such as Pier 1 Imports and Paul Harris. Clients were so impressed with the quality of service and signage they received from North American Signs that they significantly increased the amount of business with the company. This increased demand allowed North American Signs to grow into a national company.

North American Signs celebrating their 50th Anniversary at the Century Center in South Bend, IN
North American Signs celebrating their 50th Anniversary at the Century Center in South Bend, IN

By 1987 North American Signs outgrew its facility on Garst and Maine Street in South Bend. The company required a larger, more modern facility to keep up with increasing business. The Yargers moved the company onto a 12 acre plot of land across from the regional airport in South Bend. The airport provided a significant advantage as it enabled North American Signs to reach national customers in a convenient manner.

Current North American Signs owner, John Yarger, grandson of the founder,  started working for the family-owned company in 1996 in the human resources and sign variance departments. As he gained more experience at the company, he was given more responsibility. In 1999 John, Noel’s eldest son, took over the operations side of the company. He focused on streamlining manufacturing to increase the efficiency of the company while also improving the quality of the final product. John became president of North American Signs in 2003. He also became owner of the company when he purchased the stock from his uncle and father, who are still both active at North American Signs and serve on the Board of Directors. John is grateful to work with his family because they have a similar value system that can be shared with the employees of the company. He strives to promote integrity, legendary customer service, and professionalism everyday in his company so he can continue North American Signs’ tradition of making it all about the customer.

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