LOMBARD — They make up part of the city’s skyline and part of its history. The iconic signs are recognizable across the country and many of them either designed, manufactured or maintained by two men who decided to dabble in the business nearly four decades ago.
Rob Whitehead is the artist. Bill Pyter is the builder and they are the founding team behind Olympik Signs, a little company that could, thanks to a big break in the early 80s.
“Our first big project I want to say was probably the Portillo’s Hot Dogs at Finley and Butterfield in Downers Grove. Dick Portillo gave us a chance,” Whitehead said. “@e rented a small garage at a golf range for $100 a month. (It had a) low ceiling, no running water, no bathroom. (We) kept doing work and turned a side job into a full-time business. Here we are today 37 years later.”
They’ve come up with just about every type of sign or banner you can imagine.
Their 30,000 square foot facility in Lombard is a graveyard of company history waiting to be recycled.
The Prudential Building, Harry Caray’s and dozens of other restaurants all find a home there. Landmarks too like Midway, Navy Pier, The Vic and the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Their crews scale massive heights and rappel down buildings. They fly in via helicopter and work in tough conditions to get the job done.
Both men’s grown kids are now involved in the business and like many of their products the future is very bright.