Editor's Note: This story has been changed from the print edition to correct the name of California Sign Group Corp. and its owner, Fidel Zelaya.


Business may be bad for banks, but it's booming for companies that make their signs.

When banks acquire their ailing competitors, out goes the tarnished name. That means replacing all those signs that adorn everything from the building tops to ATM machines in the lobby.

Such cosmetic changes are under way at Washington Mutual branches across Southern California, where workers for Tako Tyko are tearing down the blue and yellow signs and replacing them with the Chase moniker.

Ruben Cielak, owner of Tako Tyko, said his company is seeing a 20 percent increase in business, thanks to banks acquiring failed rivals.

Tako Tyko employees have spent the past month stripping Washington Mutual signs from 50 of the bank's branches in Orange and L.A. counties, and replacing them with temporary Chase banners.

The company makes signs at its Mid-City headquarters including the temporary Chase banners that are already hanging where the WaMu name was once seen. Permanent blue and white Chase signs will be installed in the next two months.

It's not just crashing banks that are helping sign companies withstand the poor economy. Some businesses are trying to attract customers by sprucing up their signs.

"The idea is to change the brand, or to add more value, to increase sales," said Fidel Zelaya, owner of California Sign Group Corp.

Zelaya said his company, which manufacturers its signs in Pomona, saw a 16 percent increase in sales during the first quarter of this year.

But that doesn't mean it's easy: First, the sign companies have to get the gigs. Zelaya is waiting to hear whether Wells Fargo plans to hire his company to switch the signs on local branches of Wachovia, which was acquired by the San Francisco bank. Cielak's Tako Tyko is also vying for the job.

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