When it came to business, Starr Studios thrived by evolution. It was a sign of the times—so to speak. Owner Sean Starr has found his niche.

The first incarnation of Starr Studios was Starr Custom Paint, a company started by Starr’s father more than 30 years ago.

In 2005, after the death of his dad, Starr took over the custom paint business, moved it to San Francisco and turned it into his personal art outlet as an abstract expressionist contracted under Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.

Starr was successful traveling from Napa Valley to New York featuring his work until the economy collapsed in 2007. All contracts under Allen were canceled, including Starr’s.

To save the family business, Starr had to go back to work. He returned to his roots. Starr Studios became a sign shop with a focus on the art of traditional sign making, a skill Starr learned from his father. “I had to switch gears with the economy, which I think is fairly common with most people,” Starr said.

Starr Studios built its client base online promoting nationally. Eventually Starr’s signs were recognized around the world, as far as Australia, and in niche magazines like SignCraft.

In March 2010, Starr was able to move the business back to Big Bear where he and his wife, Kayleigh, met four years before. In a sense, he packed up shop and brought her home. It was a good move, he said. So good, as a matter of fact, that Starr Studios is moving to a larger studio and will soon offer more services like antique restoration.

With so much emphasis on the trade aspect, signs are created to depict the look and feel of a business. The whole idea was, and still is, to create an ambiance to draw people in off the street. “That’s where we see long-term potential in the Village,” Sean said. “We can help create an atmosphere with the signage to make it feel like it’s in a world of its own.”

With that in mind, Sean is working to get more involved with the city of Big Bear Lake to help business owners with the city’s facade and sign improvement program. He hopes to attract business owners who provide something unique to Big Bear like the Le Dolce Vita Tasting Room, Sean said.

Starr Studios crafted Le Dolce Vita’s custom sign that hangs outside of the establishment. He applauds the business for its efforts. “Those forward-thinking businesses will be the backbone of Big Bear recovery financially,” Sean said.

Other local accomplishments are signs for The Copper Q and a “facelift” for the Marina Resort. Sean would like to build enough of a presence in Big Bear Valley to base a large percentage of the studio’s work here, he said.

Starr Studios handcrafted signs are 100 percent custom from start to finish, a real functioning piece of art. “They’re eye-catching, they make cars turn in off the road,” Sean said. “It’s not just a piece of plastic. That turns into a lot of value.”

Starr Studios offers vinyl letters and plastic signs, but Sean prefers to educate his customers. “A handcrafted sign will age gracefully and out perform plastic any day,” he said.

For more information about Starr Studios, visit www.starrstudios.org or call 909-547-4833.

Contact reporter Stephanie Thoth at 909-866-3456, ext. 136, or email sthoth.grizzly@gmail.com.

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