For hospitals, directional signs can assist patients and clarify new policies. Sign businesses have also developed new products such as sneeze guards and face shields to protect workers, medical professionals, patients and customers.
At D&R Signs in Leander, the business has received nearly hourly calls to print COVID-19 signs. The business mostly works with home builders and commercial builders, so these informational signs are used for model homes and in community welcome centers.
Co-owner Ralph Van Tassell said the company is “rolling with the punches” and trying to keep business in its decreased market.
Sneeze guards are also a new product for the 18-year old company, and Van Tassell estimates they have sold hundreds. Face shields are the next new product that they are developing for hospitals. D&R Signs already has the equipment to make them.
“If things do slow down in the sign world, if we can continue to work on face shields and things like that—that will help offset some of the business we lost," he said.
Business has decreased, but the company is remaining busy as it supplies builders across the Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston metro areas, Van Tassell said.
“The builders have to keep building or our economy is going to crash, and we’re one of the trades that supports them,” he said. “They’re all trying to stay open, and we’re trying to support them as best as we possibly can.”
Farm to Fork in Leander is seeing the same troubles as all restaurants with less than 50% of regular weekend business and difficulty accessing bulk proteins, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
The restaurant faced a different trial last week. Amy Schaffner, the executive chef and owner of Farm to Fork, said the restaurant's new streetside banners advertising curbside pickup was up for less than five minutes before city code enforcement said it would be fined $550 because the banners violate city policies.
She said the banners were used primarily because the restaurant was giving meals to people in the community who could not afford them.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone could get them because we are hidden back here,” she said.
Schaffner said Leander Mayor Troy Hill called within hours to take care of the issue, which he resolved by the evening.
On March 26, Hill ordered the city to reduce regulations for business signs through April 18. Signs would not require a local permit during this time if in compliance with the order, according to a March 16 release.
Schaffner said the signs are pulled away from the street and put away nightly for safety on the street. Schaffner and her husband have been questioning whether to stay open and if they are still doing the community a service in keeping their restaurant open.
The owners are not taking pay now, and they are trying to keep their employees safe and take care of ones who are no longer working until the pandemic is over. Every curbside order helps the restaurant, Schaffner said, especially as some products are becoming more difficult to find.
“As long as I feel like the community still needs us, we will say open,” she said.
Jolie Cypert, co-owner of three FASTSIGNS locations in Cedar Park and Austin, said their signs have shifted from communicating business image to communicating safety measures.
Overall, FASTSIGNS’ business has been down because regular projects have been put on hold, but the sign shop has turned to innovating new products to support customers.
“It’s just really been a scramble to adjust and meet the needs of our customers that weren’t their needs three weeks ago,” Cypert said.
Sneeze guards, floor decals identifying 6-foot spacing and face shields are new products that have never been popular before. Cypert estimates they have made hundreds of sneeze guards so far, and they have resources to make about 2,800 face shields for medical workers.
She expects products such as sneeze guards and floor decals to continue to sell, even after stay-at-home orders loosen in the future.
“We've still got to practice more or better hygiene and social distancing,” she said. “I kind of see that as something—that and the floor graphics—as things that will still be needed.”