Our Founder, John Berlin, was employed full time at Sharon Steel in Sharon, Pennsylvania in the plant’s police department in 1951. After marrying in 1952, he took a correspondence course to become an electrician. He developed an interest in signs, and after visiting Pioneer Neon in Pittsburgh, he decided to give neon tube bending a try.
In 1957 he and his wife Jean (and their three year old son John Michael) moved to a farmhouse in Brookfield, Ohio that had an outbuilding where John set up his neon sign shop. He learned to weld and started to slowly acquire the equipment he needed, while working a full time job at the steel mill.
His first sign was for a motel and restaurant in Hickory, PA, soon followed by signs for Myer Frank Furniture and Daffin’s Candies in Sharon, PA. He took on his largest job to date around this time when he was awarded the job of building the signs for a huge discount department store called Valley View in Brookfield, Ohio. 1957 was a monumental year for John and Jean Berlin, they took their first vacation to Florida that year and they were hooked. They visited Florida several times in the next couple of years and moved to Englewood in 1960. John found employment with Anderson Electric. His first job with Anderson was wiring the new Venice Shopping Center being built at this time.
John rented a storefront at the Calhoun Plaza (where Walgreens is now at the corner of Indiana
Avenue and Dearborn Street) in Englewood and opened his sign shop in 1960. In 1961 he moved
to a new location in Venice on Business 41 in a strip center in front of Farley Funeral Home. John
worked days bending neon and building signs but thought that billboard advertising would be an
interesting and lucrative addition to his business. Between 1962 and 1963 John had built several
billboard locations. As if this didn’t keep John busy enough, he and his brother opened a bar and
grille in Venice called The Glades.
All was going well and in 1963 John purchased the property on Bahama Street (a block from his
rented location on Business 41) and built the building we still occupy today in 1964. John kept
acquiring billboard sites and slowly expanded his business.
Then in 1966 Hurricane Alma changed everything! John lost 30 of his 32 billboard locations to the
storm and had to completely start over and re-build. It was an extremely rough time and he was
mortgaged to the hilt. During the period between 1966 and the late 1970’s he re-built his billboards and acquired many new locations suitable for new outdoor advertising structures. The commercial sign company side of the business also expanded in this great time in our local history.
A lot of very talented people worked for John in those days, when signs were actually hand lettered and neon was so cool, remember this was the “Rat Pack” era! Some of the most memorable talent that worked for Berlin Signs in the old days:
Some of them are well known (in their own right) locally such as Bernie Redding, Doyle Keiser,
Frank Dorsett, Pat Durbin and Frank Davis to name a few. Bill Ed Thomas, rest his soul, moved here from Tennessee and started with Berlin Signs in the late 1960’s, after he “retired”, and worked for many years, playing a major part in building the billboard structures.
In 1975, after college, John’s son Mike (John Michael Berlin) opened Advent Advertising, in a
building that they built adjoining the existing sign shop building.
After Advent Advertising closed a few years later, we expanded into the additional space and changed the storefront. In 1982, John’s daughter Cathy joined the business. In 1987, we incorporated the business and John retired. In 1993, after years in marine contracting, boat sales and boat manufacturing, Cathy’s husband, Tram Pickett, brought his knowledge and diverse experience to our company. He has been the company’s general manager since the mid 1990’s and is also now the President of Berlin Sign Company, Inc. Under his leadership, our business has been able to greatly expand our manufacturing capacity.
Although we still provide great service to the smallest order, we are proud of our standing as a high quality UL listed manufacturing facility. For over 50 years, Berlin Sign Company has been proudly serving the area with top quality signage. We look forward to serving you.
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