Established in its namesake street in Mornington in 1988, Progress Signs is a family business that has painted itself into the town’s community.
Graeme Pollerd has lived on the peninsula for four decades and prior to Progress had run a few businesses… “I was at a loose end, in-between jobs and saw an opening. I was working with farm machinery and a local land agent let me know that a sign-writer was needed in the area.” At the time, oldest son Steve was working as an apprentice in the sign-writing trade and dad soon convinced him to team up to form a new enterprise. “One of the qualified tradies came with me, I finished my apprenticeship, and we were away,” said Steve. A couple of years later, son Craig was looking for a cabinetmaking apprenticeship: “but there was nothing around, till one of dad’s crew said ‘Well why wouldn’t you do your apprenticeship here?’” “Dad said ‘Think about it for a week’ but I knew I was keen; I finished year 10 and then I joined,” Said Craig.
“I wanted a name with some stability about it, and it linked up with Progress Street, where we started off. Later we moved to Yuille Street and then bought a block of land and built our own factory,” Graeme adds. “Our first job was a real estate board, all done by brush, I loved are but I mainly managed the business. In the early days we had sign-writers around all the factory walls, writing boards and windows, and then computers started to come in,” said Graeme. In the early 90s, sign-writing in Melbourne was becoming digital and Progress embraced the technological revolution. It was a big step because we had to invest in a lot of technology,” said Craig.
“Not many sign-shops around now still offer the full service – we still do hand written signs including ‘old looking distressed pieces’ for some clients who want an old fashioned look. It’s got a lot more character,” said Steve. People come in who might be restoring an old horse cart, furniture or a car that needs some pin-lining – we still do that,” But many of the peninsula’s older hand written signs are disappearing. When the roller-rink in West Rosebud disappeared last year, a slab of Progress’ early work went with it. “We’ve done a lot of antique stuff, which is very rewarding in the end, like the old 30s water carrier that came in bare and went out coloured and pin-lined. In the early days we’d have our ladders and trestles set up in the main street, set out the work and paint it by hand, but nearly all that old work has disappeared now.” These days most of the work is created in the factory and erected on-site. The crew also do ‘marry me’ and birthday banners, some of which are sneakily hung from bridges over peninsula thoroughfares.
Over the years Progress has stuck the name on more than one Skandia-Wild Thing hull, including the Sydney-Hobart winning boat.“ For one hull I flew to Sydney with all the vinyl and worked on the boat all night under spot lights, to get it done on time,” said Steve.
Progress Signs has grown from a small business over the years and is now getting busier and busier with every passing month. The boys have a keen eye for employing exceptional, fully qualified staff, who are looked upon as a second family, not just staff. They are constantly upgrading their skills and receiving new accreditations as the industry changes and grows. With Graeme cutting back his hours to enjoy more of his life and the boys taking over, Progress Signs, has truly become a family business. We know we will stand the test of time and come out ahead as one of the biggest sign writing companies on the Peninsula for many, many years to come.