Charts and Growth: Auburn Company Changes Ownership as Customers Abound | Local News | Auburn, New York State | Auburnpub.com
Matt Ferguson calls this “the A&M difference”.
This is what separates Auburn’s graphics business, which he now owns 100%, A&M Graphics, from the rest. Ferguson, who founded the company with Al Brunner in 2009, bought out his partner in December.
The transition comes as A&M continues to grow, even during COVID-19. Formerly a 12-by-12-foot office on York Street, the company now occupies 5,000 square feet on Grant Avenue. Along the way, A&M has built up an extensive portfolio of recognizable brands in Auburn and beyond, from the sign outside Cayuga Community College to Anheuser-Busch wall coverings in Baldwinsville.
Those brands have reverted to A&M, and the company’s reach has spread further and further across the region, as it can do just about anything, Ferguson said. He and Brunner pride themselves on being a one-stop-shop, offering all possible services in all areas from design to production. That, Ferguson told The Citizen on Wednesday, is the “A&M difference.”
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“It takes a lot away from our customers,” he said. “They know they can just call and A&M will take care of them, whatever their needs.”
The company started out by taking all possible clients. Before its prominent signs and ubiquitous truck wraps, A&M created designs as modest as the decals on cornhole planks, said Ferguson, 37. After a few successful first years, he and Brunner, 63, began planning the transition from a partnership to full ownership by Ferguson. Brunner retains an advisory seat on the company’s board of directors.
A key step in growing A&M from a “small sign store” to the company it is now, Ferguson said, has been obtaining 3M certification in graphics installation and film installation. architectural.
“We wanted to stand out from everyone who said they could do these things,” he said, “going through the toughest and most practical tests and certifications in the country”.
When it comes to their squad, however, Ferguson and Brunner have been careful not to grow too fast. They started with a third front desk employee, but even after 12 years and four location changes the company only employs five people. This is because A&M never wants to have to cut talent should slow down. Rather, the company wants to be known for attracting and retaining talent, a reputation it affirmed by recently hiring a project manager from a large Syracuse company. A&M is currently looking to add one or two employees, Ferguson said.
The company’s hiring philosophy extends to its creative work: quality rather than quantity. A&M clients range from national companies who need pre-fabricated graphics produced and installed to local businesses who need someone to walk them through the process. Or sometimes national companies want to refresh their brand, or sometimes local companies need help researching theirs, Ferguson said.
Whatever the job, he and Brunner have found it rewarding. Perhaps the most rewarding and important design in their portfolio is the “Prison City Brewing” sign on the silo outside the new brewery facility. After working on ideas with owners Dawn and Marc Schulz, A&M landed on the bold white lettering visible on North Street today. Before Ferguson and Brunner could install it, however, they had to apply for permits and then present it to the city’s zoning appeal board. It was a “real big project,” Ferguson said, but he thanks the board for approving it.
“It could be a ‘Genesee Beer’ sign for a new generation,” he said. “When that was done, people I didn’t know came to me and told me they had seen the silo and loved it.”
Other local breweries that feature A&M imagery, along with Prison City and Anheuser-Busch, include Next Chapter in Auburn and Lunkenheimer in Weedsport. But it’s another category of customers that has kept the business running uninterrupted during COVID-19. Design and production work done by A&M for hospitals like Auburn Community and Upstate Medical University, as well as adjoining healthcare manufacturers like Tessy Plastics and Currier Plastics, has earned the company an “essential” designation of New York state at the start of the pandemic, Ferguson said.
At first it was just him and Brunner rushing to their Grant Avenue facility. Later, the entire A&M team worked to make sure they could help their critical customers as best they could.
“We’re the kind of guy we’re not going to go home and see what happens,” Ferguson said. “We have learned to zigzag or zag in any direction.”