Heinen's Supermarket in Cleveland
Signage in Heinen's Supermarket in Cleveland was created by Brand Decor
By Ed Avis
When customers walk into Heinen’s Supermarket in downtown Cleveland, they probably feel like they’ve stepped back in time a hundred years. The grocery store is located inside a soaring rotunda that originally served as the lobby of a bank. The structure, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed in 1908 with all the flourishes of that era, from marble floors to muscular columns to a gleaming Tiffany glass dome.
A regular supermarket might seem out of place in that environment, but the directional signage, promotional displays, and other retail graphics were expertly designed to fit in. To turn those designs into reality, the interior designer tapped the skills of Brand Décor, a division of IRgA member GDS Retail and Display Graphics in Bloomington, Illinois.
“Everything in this store is virtually museum quality,” explains John Kallmeyer, Brand Décor’s national accounts business development manager.
From Temp to Perm
Brand Décor is a new division of GDS, officially launched just this past spring, though high-quality, permanent AEC graphics have been part of GDS’s skill set for about three years.
“About 90 percent of GDS’s work is retail graphics, mostly high-volume rollouts of short term promotional graphics,” says Kallmeyer, who joined GDS three years ago after a 20-year career creating permanent graphics for museums, corporations, and retailers. “When I came on board, we decided to seize the opportunity to do a lot more permanent, high-end work through the architectural and design community. Essentially we’re using the same equipment and materials, it’s just a matter of utilizing that equipment and materials in different ways to come up with some desired effect, typically more permanent or elegant.”
The process of creating higher-end AEC graphics is also more consultative than a typical signage job, Kallmeyer says. Whereas a national retailer rolling out a promotion might send over a file and ask for 400 signs to be quickly printed and shipped out, an interior designer will ask Kallmeyer to meet and discuss color schemes, materials, and other design elements.
“We sit down and look at graphics and design elements and decide what materials and techniques would be best to meet their design intent,” Kallmeyer says. “We could be talking about wall coverings, letters, small fixtures, other things that contribute to the overall effect that the design is getting to. So at the same time as we are fabricators, we are consultants. The architects and designers don’t know that machine B can reverse print white on media B. Intimately understanding the capabilities of the printers, cutters, and materials is where we fit in.”
Heinen’s Supermarket: Skills on Display
The Heinen’s Supermarket project came to Brand Décor through Studio Graphique, the Cleveland design firm responsible for the branding, signage, and décor. Kallmeyer had worked with the firm on other projects over the years, so they knew they could turn to him for consultation on the challenge of crafting long-lasting graphics that melded with the structure’s ultra-historic design.
For example, the designer wanted the 8-foot-wide department signs to blend well with the antique glass in the windows. Brand Décor crafted the signs on half-inch-thick frosted green acrylic. Dimensional half-inch PVC letters, laminated with a brushed titanium metal laminate, were glued to the acrylic. The backsides of the signs were covered in white vinyl to help the color of the acrylic pop.
“The reason that material was selected was because the style of that antique green glass look really fit the environment, especially with the big Tiffany leaded glass dome,” Kallmeyer says. “That all fed into the art deco style of the color palette.”
The firms’ skill is also on display in the aisle and end cap markers. The checkout counters and wine bins were custom-made with walnut veneer, so the designer asked Brand
Décor to create aisle markers that matched. They laminated a walnut veneer onto PVC panels, and applied cut vinyl to the face. A similar design was used on the end caps, except the end caps have eight cut-in, metal-backed insets that accommodate changeable magnetic panels that snap into place. That way the end cap signs can be changed as needed.
Brand Décor called on the skills of Metalphoto, a Cincinnati-based etching company, to help them create six wall panels that discuss the history of the building.
“They acid etched an image onto a piece of brushed aluminum, using a half tone screen so they could do images and text,” Kallmeyer explains. “The graphics were then glued onto green glass acrylics.”
The company also crafted special glass dry-erase boards that are used throughout the store to announce specials, and inkjet-printed magnetized signs that can be switched out
easily as needed.
Among the biggest challenges of the project was hanging all of the signs. Again, Brand Décor tapped the talents of another firm – a metal fabricator – for this part of the job. All of the hangers had to be custom fabricated and powder coated to match the décor of the store.
“The metal fabricator did a great job,” Kallmeyer says. “Everything was done on time.”
The store opened in March 2015, and architecture buffs who were worried about a grocery store located inside a historic building were relieved.
“Lovers of historic architecture have no reason to fear,” wrote Steven Litt, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in an article about the store. “The design of the much-anticipated downtown Heinen's supermarket in the Ameritrust Rotunda building blends history and retail in ways that should bring a beloved but long off-limits landmark back to life while respecting its integrity.”
Naturally, Brand Décor is not specifically mentioned in the newspaper article, but their behind-the-scenes work on the project played a key role in maintaining that architectural integrity.
“This is the kind of project Brand Décor can do very well,” Kallmeyer says. “It’s the kind of work we’re shooting for.”