The answers to signage questions seemed to materialize before others had time to process them.
Sitting in the president’s office of Santa Barbara Signs & Graphics last week, Fred Barbaria and his son, Jason, flawlessly fielded questions from an employee relaying answers to customers out front.
No sign request or job appeared beyond their knowledge, or the realm of possibility.
It makes sense, considering the elder Barbaria would have owned the business at 3019 State St. for 16 years next month.
He narrowly missed that milestone when the company became Jason’s on Jan. 1.
Fred, 66, is looking forward to retirement and other business ventures, while his son is excited to keep the business in the family.
“I’ll keep my hand in something,” said Fred, who has started working part time at the shop in the mornings. “I’m ready to do something else. It’s time to do something else.”
Fred had been planning to sell the business for about a year, which ended up being how much time Jason, 27, needed to think about buying it.
He now co-owns the business with his wife, Tristin Tracy.
“It would be nice to keep it a family business,” said Jason, who was working in sales and marketing before making the switch late last year.
It won’t be the first time Jason has worked at the store, however. He had a couple of stints there during the summers when he was in college and two full years after graduating from UC Santa Cruz.
Fred’s other sons — one older than Jason and the other Jason’s younger twin — have also spent some time behind the counter and in the sign-making business.
Jason hopes to continue growing the business, which predominantly handles large-format printing, tradeshow displays and larger projects.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Everyday it’s something different.”
The Barbarias have a loyal customer base, with most new customers from referrals. This year will be the 10th time the company has sponsored and provided signs for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
With his shop in good hands, Fred said he and his wife of nearly 31 years, Cheryl, plan to relax and travel before he finds another business venture.
“I think it’d be hard for someone to come in who doesn’t know the business at all,” he said. “It’s been a smooth transition so far.”
“It’s been a hostile takeover,” his son joked.
Fred said he might get back into photography, when he can, hopefully, finagle some prints from his former employer.
“Always welcome,” Jason said.