By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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MACHESNEY PARK— It started with a sticker.
It was 2006 and Sam Furman, who had worked as an architect for years, was looking for a side project. Around the same time, the fine for parking in a handicap stall had changed. So Furman came up with a simple sticker that provided businesses a low cost option to update their signs.
Then in 2009, after the Great Recession had ground his retail architecture career to a halt, he decided to build on that small business that started with a sticker.
“I’m not good at sitting around and waiting for things to happen,” he said. “I decided it was time for a change. I reinvented myself.”
Today, the groundUP stores is a multifaceted maintenance business and sign shop that grew for one key reason: Whenever a customer needed something new, Furman found a way to do it.
“We just kept saying yes whenever a customer would ask us could we do something else for them,” he said. “It just snowballed.”
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It now offers striping, stencils and complete parking lot services, signs, bollard covers and post sleeves and engravings on tiles, concrete and wood, among other services. It is also an RV rental location for Cruise America and a UHaul rental location.
The GroundUp stores recently relocated from its home on Forest Hills Road, where it spent the past decade, to a spot that more than doubles its space and sets the stage for more expansion in the future. The company cut the ribbon on its new space at 9624 N. Second St. on Friday in a ceremony with the Parks Chamber of Commerce. The space was previously home to North Park Rental.
“It’s a great place to grow into,” Furman said. “We have all kinds of expansion plans.”
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He employs 10 people now, including some seasonal workers. That’s a long way from where he started: working out of the back of his Toyota Camry, which couldn’t fit the long-handle post driver and 10-foot posts he used on job sites.
“They’d be sticking out of the back of my Camry when I’d go to a job site,” he said.
The business also offers used signs it’s purchased from municipalities after they cycled out of use, and it has a “curiosity shop” where customers can purchase thrift store items unrelated to parking lots. There are also a multitude of new signs appropriate for homes and businesses.
And that first sticker, available for just a few bucks, is still sold, too.
“My autobiography is going to be called ‘It started with a sticker,'” Furman joked.
the groundUp stores gives back
The groundUp stores will be giving back to the community by providing free pavement marking services to three charitable organizations. The work is valued at $500, and each of the three winners will be selected at random from the nominations the company receives.
Nominations must be sent by noon May 23. You can email the nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Facebook.com/thegroundUPstores, fax the application to 815-280-0719 or visit the store in person at 9624 N. Second St., Machesney Park.
This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas.