On Friday, October 18, Kenn Lubin, head of operations and sales of King Displays, led an interested group of APHA members on a tour. Located a block from the Neil Simon Theater in Manhattan, the printing company has been around since 1938, when it began creating signs for burlesque shows. Over time the business grew, taking on movie work, Broadway scrims, and eventually producing 98% of the signs on Broadway.
King is a showplace for large scale digital printing; beginning its transition from hand painted signs to digital in 1987. Event marketing is a large part of the business too, where speed and location gives them an advantage. A smaller part of the business is artist customers, including Andy Warhol, and more recently, Joel Grey, whose large photographs King printed for a gallery exhibit.
The company is a beta testing site for Hewlett Packard. Materials that can go through the company’s HP inkjet printers are plastic, wood, paper and aluminum. Any material up to two inches thick can pass through the machines. The seven and eight color printers can print white, as well as the usual CMYK. Additional colors are light cyan, light magenta and grey. The company can laminate printed signage with UV film to achieve either a matte or a gloss finish, as well as die cut vinyl lettering.
In the last two years, the company began testing latex ink that is more environmentally friendly than the inkjet inks currently in use. Another environmental issue that they would like to solve is the disposal/reuse of vinyl. An inkjet printed sign has a lifespan of two to five years; billboards can last up to eight or nine years. Vinyl, which many of the signs are printed on, is not degradable. Kenn Lubin’s idea for the virtually indestructible material is to reuse it as a house wrap. Another option is to construct wallets, bags and backpacks.
King Displays keeps four warehouses in New Jersey, full of signage going back to 1950. As you might have guessed, Kenn Lubin is also a collector. He has a personal collection of approximately five thousand window cards, amassed over forty plus years in the sign and advertising business. Through the printing business he has met the rich and famous and has advocated for a Museum of Broadway to be established. So far his wish has not been fulfilled; but someday the museum may yet happen. The time could come soon; the American Sign Museum in Ohio successfully opened the doors to its new home last year.