Taking a concept it had applied to its headquarters, Connecticut-based Joseph Merritt & Co. took it to another level at its newest location. In May, the imaging firm debuted its Bright Ideas Gallery at its latest Merritt Graphics location in Waterford, Conn. The walls, floors, windows, ceiling, and stand-alones contain more than 150 images depicting the services of the nearly 100-year-old company.
“We wanted to accomplish two things,” says President and CEO Ed Perry, who purchased the company in 1987. “First, we wanted customers to say, ‘Wow.’ Second, we wanted them to say, ‘I didn’t know you did that.'”
So far, the gallery has accomplished just that. “We’re seeing a lot more traffic and hearing lots of good comments,” Perry says.
The other Bright Ideas Gallery, which occupies 28,000 square feet, is located in Hartford, Conn.
“While this isn’t the first time we’ve done a gallery, it’s the first time we’ve done it to this extent. It’s too early yet, however, to know how that will translate into sales.”
Merritt Graphics hired a contractor to design the concept to display all five product categories: construction documents, equipment and supplies (one-stop shop for drafting, CAD design, and graphic art supplies and printers), big color, digital print on demand (featuring the Xerox iGen3), and information management (including scanning and database management).
The gallery, which cost approximately $200,000, including design and printing, features mountain scenes with gondolas, printed window shades, wall and vehicle graphics, a Popeye silhouette, pole banners, trade show booths, motion graphics displays, a plasma screen with the company infomercial, and more.
The new Waterford location, one of eight company locations, is 4,000 square feet and located in a strip mall with stores such as Lowes home supply store. This is a unique spot for Merritt, as most of its eight locations are in industrial parks.
“Our former New London office was located far off the highway and was too difficult for customers to find,” says Perry. “Our initial intention was to be closer to the interstate, and this was the space I found most suitable.”
The gallery, which evolved during a 4-month period, provides an extensive showcase of company capabilities. Rather than showcase the equipment–which includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in products such as a Gandinnovations Jeti 3150 UV True Flatbed Printer, the Scitex XLjet 3, a Zund cutter, the Xerox iGen3, Mimaki printers, and 18 Oce blueprinters–the gallery displays the finished products.
“The customers don’t care about the technology–they just care about the product and what we can deliver,” says Perry. “It’s a place for our salespeople to show customers what we can do in terms of output.
“Our strongest suit is custom projects,” he says. “Anyone can provide a banner. But when a customer is looking for graphics and kiosk design, and a lot of creative input, that’s what we do best. We don’t have too many competitors who can do that. Our customers can tell us their budget, ask us to handle their graphics, and we do the rest. That comes across in our gallery, and we’ve been getting reactions of: ‘That’s cool. How were you able to do that?'”
The gallery was designed with flexibility in mind and can be easily updated to keep it fresh and to showcase new capabilities as they evolve. To promote the new location and gallery, Merritt Graphics held a Grand Opening on May 17. The mayor was on hand for a ribbon cutting, and a local radio station broadcast from the facility.
“The gallery certainly hasn’t been cheap,” says Perry. “But in our business, you have to risk money to make money.”
Celebrating a century
Joseph Merritt & Co. will turn 100 years old next year, and Merritt Graphics has big plans to celebrate the milestone. This fall, the company will hold a celebration in front of its building. Panels will depict scenes from 1908 compared to 2008. Century-old nonprofit art-oriented associations will participate with period dress and costumes. A food festival and invitations to dignitaries will cap the celebration. And the following summer, the Merritt Graphics employees will have their own celebration.
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