If you’re in the Charlotte-area you’re likely familiar with Sycamore Brewing – a popular, family-owned brewery and taproom known for having a fun, eye-catching brand that matches their equally-fun and fresh craft beer. Even outside of Charlotte, their locally made craft brews, like the ultra-popular Mountain Candy IPA, can be found at restaurants, bars and stores across the Southeast.
Bringing this brand to life is where Duncan-Parnell starts to come in. For years, Duncan-Parnell has worked with Sycamore to produce much of the signage for their taproom, retail displays, events and distributor partners. Duncan-Parnell also serves as a resource for guidance and knowledge regarding what’s possible with their signage, keeping Sycamore’s branding and creativity at the forefront.
How it Started:
Signs & Graphics Sales Representative, Mike Tylicki, started working with the team at Sycamore a few years after its taproom opened in 2013. While doing work for another Duncan-Parnell customer, Lenny Boy Brewing, Tylicki stopped by the still-coming-soon Sycamore taproom and met the owner, Sarah Brigham. Eventually, Duncan-Parnell started to produce and fulfill their small format needs like sales collateral and flyers. Over time, Duncan-Parnell has become their go-to partner for custom signs and event graphics.
Ordering signage for a bustling brewery can sometimes be a little tricky. Sycamore’s Marketing Manager, Mark Larkin, knows firsthand how brief turnaround times for projects can be or how exact quantities of signage can’t always be known in advance. Duncan-Parnell’s Signs & Graphics team works closely with Larkin and can quickly adjust orders as new details emerge. One common type of item Sycamore needs to reorder frequently is beer tap stickers. It’s important these stickers are restocked quickly but predicting quantities can sometimes be difficult – especially when new brews are released. For example, one of their newer beers, Drippy IPA, had an extremely popular release, requiring additional tap stickers to be refilled quickly and distributed to where it was being sold. Luckily, Duncan-Parnell’s Signs & Graphics team is able to swiftly adjust and fulfill orders as needed for all of Sycamore’s projects, “[Duncan-Parnell] is local and Mike is able to get our projects turned around really quickly,” said Larkin.
Bringing Visions to Life:
Larkin relies on Tylicki to bring his ideas to fruition – especially when it comes to signage that needs to stand out. This was the case with creating the tap danglers that are used to draw attention to Sycamore’s beer taps. These were tricky because they had to be waterproof, durable and cleanable in order to survive the spills and splatters common for bars. This is where Tylicki’s expertise and knowledge of signage materials came in handy. Tylicki worked with Larkin to bring the tap danglers to life by selecting the right materials and production methods. The final product is a thick styrene graphic, perfect for catching the eyes of bargoers and drawing them to whatever Sycamore brews are on tap.
Another unique type of signage that Sycamore leverages are their bar back signs. These are large beer-can-shaped signs used to display whatever brew they’re promoting at the time. Larkin wasn’t sure whether or not these large bar signs would be possible since they needed to be big, but sturdy, and able to stand up on their own. Before these signs were produced – or before the Signs & Graphics team even knew they could be produced – Larkin built a wooden slot that could serve as the base. He brought this to Tylicki and the team at Duncan-Parnell who were then able to create signage that fit into it perfectly. These eye-catching signs are vital for calling attention to whatever brew Sycamore is promoting at the time as well as the brews being featured at distributors’ bars.
In the spring of 2021, Sycamore announced an epic months-long giveaway to celebrate their signature Mountain Candy IPA. The grand prize is a decked-out Airstream with other goodies and prizes up for grabs. This campaign will run for several months and requires a variety of signage in order to support the giveaway and raise awareness.
Duncan-Parnell has produced table tents and signage for Sycamore’s taproom to promote the giveaway. Larkin also had mini-Airstream cutouts and large Mountain Candy can cutouts produced for Sycamore’s retail partners. This has been one of Larkin’s favorite projects Duncan-Parnell has done so far because of how fun all of the promotional materials were to design, and see come to life.
Adapting During COVID:
Like nearly every business, Sycamore was affected by pandemic-related shutdowns, forcing them to adapt. The brewery, which regularly hosted events pre-pandemic, shifted their focus to new ways they could serve customers. With their taproom closed they introduced new pickup options for customers. To make order pickups easy for customers they knew they needed to incorporate directional and exterior signage to guide people through the process. The Signs & Graphics team seamlessly adapted to Sycamore’s new needs to quickly provide this important directional signage. Despite shutdowns, the Sycamore team still wanted to be prepared for when the taproom reopened. This prompted Larkin to work with Duncan-Parnell to outfit the space with safety and informative signage so that Sycamore would be prepared to reopen as soon as it was deemed safe to do so.
Sycamore’s efforts to support others during the pandemic didn’t stop with their customers. They also implemented a new program to support distribution partners like restaurants and bars that were forced to shut down as well. The Freshness Campaign was launched to ease distributors’ worries about their Sycamore beer going stale during shutdowns. Sycamore committed to replace their beer for distributor partners that expired during lockdown closures – free of charge. Don’t worry though, the stale beer didn’t go to waste and was instead repurposed into locally made hand sanitizers. Larkin relied on Duncan-Parnell’s help with this campaign to create the signage necessary to communicate details and build awareness of the initiative. Duncan-Parnell also created table tents and posters for the campaign.
A Strong Partnership:
Since partnering with Duncan-Parnell for signage solutions, Sycamore has had more flexibility and creative freedom with their signs. Duncan-Parnell’s Signs & Graphics experts work with Larkin and the team at Sycamore to understand their vision for each piece, while still considering the durability and practicality of each project. Larkin knows he can turn to Tylicki and the Duncan-Parnell team with ideas for signage he wants to bring to life, “I’m always asking them about different mediums and materials we can try,” said Larkin.
Being a local business also makes it easy for Sycamore to get the signage they need in the quantities they want, “The whole team is very responsive,” according to Larkin. Some big box sign shops will require order minimums, which can be a challenge for a business such as Sycamore where collateral quantities can range widely. Duncan-Parnell’s quick turnaround times and close proximity to Sycamore also makes it easy to fit tight timelines, even with large orders.
As Sycamore continues to grow in the Charlotte-area and beyond, brand recognition and eye-catching signage will only grow in importance. Duncan-Parnell’s Signs & Graphics team provides Sycamore with the unique signage they need for any application they want to try. Leaning on a comprehensive signage partner allows Sycamore to focus on what’s most important, brewing craft beer!