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Photo by Craig Campbell

Photo by Craig Campbell

Brian Watson, left, and son Scott, have about 2,500 square feet of production and office space in the new home of Watson’s Engraving at the former Valley City Manufacturing building at 64 Hatt St. The local family business moved in shortly after a fire destroyed its previous location.

Sign company finds new home after fall fire

By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News

Watson’s Engraving has risen from the ashes of a November fire to a new home in the revitalized historic downtown Dundas building that continues to chart its own new path.

Brian and Scott Watson’s family-owned and operated sign company is back up and running – less than two months after their home of five years at 10 Bond St. N. was destroyed by fire.

The local business is one of several organizations operating in the century old building at 64 Hatt St., once home to Valley City Manufacturing – one of Dundas’ longest running and most respected businesses.

A day after the fire, the Watsons were working on laptops in their basement, sub-contracting out work that needed to be done. But it was an expensive way to do business. Within a week, they were offered space – about 2,500 square feet – in the old Valley City building, owned by Bob Crockford.

“It’s inspirational,” Crockford said. “We’re looking forward to finding more people like the Watsons, and have them join us in this wonderful building.”

He’s started the long process of repurposing the historic structures on a sprawling site between Spencer Creek and Hatt Street. Early ideas call for some mix of residential and commercial or light industrial.

Six years ago, Crockford hired a planning consultant to develop options for redevelopment of the site – while preserving the most historically significant aspects

Valley City’s former warehouse across the street at 65 Hatt – originally built as a skating rink over 120 years ago, is being dealt with separately.

Crockford said last week an offer to purchase the 13,000 square foot warehouse building has been made – with the goal of operating a micro-brewery – but no deal has been finalized and isn’t expected to close for at least five months.

A zoning application has been made to the city by Shed Brewing Company Ltd. – owned by Ed Madronich of Flat Rock Cellars winery in Jordan.  Learn more about the plan in next week’s Dundas Star News.

Meanwhile, Crockford’s focus is on putting the main building to good use.

Brian Watson suggested there’s a good fit there – with little area left in Dundas for light industrial companies like Watson’s Engraving, and Crockford’s need to bring in revenue to keep the building maintained while arranging its long-term future.

So far, the sign maker has been joined by an IT company, a law office and others.

Scott Watson said the space created for them in the lower level of 64 Hatt’s west side provides a larger production area and a little less office space than their previous home.

“We’re more visible here,” Scott said. “We also get better courier delivery.”

But he said they typically haven’t relied on walk-in traffic very much.

“We think we’re safe (here) for two or three years. But there’s no guarantee. We’re renting month-to-month.”

Other than a lack of samples and no in-house showroom ready yet, Watson’s Engraving is back in business.

“There isn’t anything we did before that we can’t do now,” Scott said.

Their repertoire includes manufacturing creative corporate and sports awards, and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor signs, banners and vehicle graphics.

One of their current projects is production of an outdoor directory of all the historic building’s new tenants.

Having replaced all their significant equipment, and returned to full manufacturing capabilities Watson’s Engraving has instituted new controls as a result of the fire – including moving away from paper records.

Much of their paper based information was completely destroyed in the fire. Anything that wasn’t ruined smelled too bad to keep. They didn’t even find a single coin from a cash box in a sweep of the building recently after the Ontario Fire Marshal returned it to the property owner.

“We’re making sure everything is digitized,” Scott said, adding they were able to save a computer hard drive on the night of the fire.

“You learn from all of this,” Brian said. “And you have to have insurance. If we didn’t have insurance, we’d be done.”

The only items salvaged after the fire were two trophy samples. The Watsons plan to display them in a special case in their showroom at 64 Hatt St.

“That’s it. Everything else was toast,” Brian said.

Watson’s Engraving has operated in Dundas since 1994, the last five years at 10 Bond St. N. Their company website is: watsonengraving.com

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