Mchale’s Sign Co.—A Family-Run Business for 45 years
By Laura Christman
Words by DeSign
Story by Laura Christman
Photos by Melinda Hunter
SIGNS INFORM, direct, connect. Try to picture a world without them.
“Can you imagine if you traveled and there was no signage whatsoever? What would you do?” asks Pat Corey.
Corey knows well the power of signs. He’s president of McHale Sign Co., a longtime family business in Redding. In the North State, if you see a sign high in the air along the freeway, branding a storefront, gracing a concrete monument, on a gas pump or announcing a performance on a lighted marquee, there’s a good chance McHale Sign Co. had something to do with it.
With 18 employees and a large fleet of vehicles, McHale Sign Co. has been designing, fabricating, transporting, installing and maintaining signs for 45 years. Its prime territory is Northern California, but the company’s reach extends to other parts of the state and beyond.
“It’s a great company to work with,” says Marc Swanson, construction manager for Black Bear Diner, headquartered in Redding. There are 131 Black Bear Diners spread across several states, and the majority of the signs were done by McHale Sign Co.
“The signage is very important,” Swanson says, noting signs are essential to branding and directing customers to the restaurants.
McHale Sign Co. does a range of projects – working with large chains to small retailers. Projects involve not only making and installing signs, but also dealing with permitting.
“We probably have 100 projects going right now,” Corey says.
The company has a long history of supporting the community, such as bringing scoreboards to North State high schools, providing signs for One Safe Place and renovating Cascade Theatre’s historic neon sign in Redding.
“We stripped that sign down to bare metal,” Corey says of the Cascade Theatre renovation. The project took a bit of detective work – following faint patterns so the sign could be illuminated in its original neon design. Corey has a soft spot for such nostalgic signs.
“The old neons are just great,” he says. He plans to work with Shasta Historical Society to restore the Greyhound station sign and other bygone markers.
McHale Sign Co. has done work for Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, including the large welcome arch spanning the entry. The colorful, multifaceted sign captures the multiple-theme mission of the park, notes Turtle Bay creative services officer Miki’ala Catalfano.
Signs direct guests to Turtle Bay and to attractions within the park. People often don’t think much about signs if the signs are doing their job, but if there’s a lack of signage or the signs are unclear about which direction to go, that does get noticed, she says.
“We want our guests to have an experience that is not frustrating,” Catalfano says.
McHale Sign Co. has established itself as “the go-to place” for sophisticated signage, Catalfano says. “They are really great people.”
Corey was the 2016 Redding Citizen of the Year and has been honored as Redding Chamber Businessperson of the Year and Rotary Club of Redding’s Rotarian of the Year. He’s been involved with Shasta Economic Development Corporation, Millville Volunteer Fire Department, Rotary Club of Redding and Redding Chamber of Commerce.
“If you give to the community, it gives back,” Corey says.
McHale Sign Co. was started in 1974 by Jerry and Betty McHale. Corey began working there part-time in high school when he was dating the McHales’ daughter Bernice. He graduated from Enterprise High School in Redding in 1977; Bernice in 1978. They married in 1979 and became partners in the sign company the following year. They’ve owned it since 1995 and will pass the business on to the third generation – son Kevin and his wife, Jamie, both of whom work for McHale Sign Co..
The Coreys are longtime Millville residents. Daughters Ashley Kellogg and Annette Wilson also reside in the North State. The sense of community plus outdoor opportunities make the region special, Corey says.
“I’m an outdoor guy. I fish, hunt and spend time in the mountains,” he says.
He’s seen lots of changes with sign production over the years.
Neon and fluorescent signs have been overtaken by low-voltage LED-illuminated signs. Materials now include composites, laminates, high-density foams and translucent vinyls. Corey recalls hand-drawing designs and hand-cutting letters from metal sheets in the early days.
“Now we have computerized cutters. Everything is done on computer,” he says.
Craftsmanship remains paramount. A sign is a first impression, after all.
“What’s outside reflects what’s inside,” Corey says.
He enjoys being in the sign business, noting each job is different.
“It’s rewarding building a customer base and having customers appreciate what you do,” he says. •