Robin and Leigh Termath say they sometimes still feel like tourists on Vancouver Island.
That’s despite the fact that, as they take their weekend drives exploring the Island that became their home more than two years ago, they’re pretty likely to see their handiwork from Tofino to Campbell River to south of Nanaimo, and plenty of places in between.
The Termaths own Coombs Junction Signs, Banners and More (2701 Alberni Hwy.). Their work appears on the sides of delivery trucks, on storefronts, roadside signs and many other places people are likely to look. They are the ones that many mid-Island businesses trust with announcing their existence to customers.
It’s an occupation they’ve seen succeed, despite getting into the business suddenly just two and a half years ago. They credit a supportive community and business environment on the mid-Island for helping them turn a brand-new profession into one they say they are quite pleased with.
“We’re super happy here,” Leigh said while working on a truck wrap with Robin and their son, Matthew.
“What a good move we made,” she said, thinking back to their relocation from the Bahamas. “A big risk,” she added, but one that bore fruit. Leigh is originally from the Bahamas, but moved to Canada for high school, where she met Robin and visited Vancouver Island.
They eventually decided to head back to the Bahamas for a bit of adventure, and the couple eventually started a newspaper.
“Leigh said, ‘Oh you know those coffee shop papers are cool,’ and I went, ‘Well that’s not a bad idea dear,’” Robin said of the genesis of their newspaper business.
“We wanted to do a little buy-and-sell and just sell ads,” said Leigh. “It evolved into a newspaper… it came out every two weeks — press releases, ads and jokes, and we did that for 17 years.”
The business itself was good, but the economy wasn’t, she said. “But we had a very good time while we were there.”
By then, Matthew was into high school, and the Termaths wanted to make the same move to Canada that Leigh had years before. At first they looked at Nova Scotia as their landing point, as homes were inexpensive.
“Then we watched the weather, and that was like the worst winter they had had in years,” said Leigh. By January, Robin had changed his itinerary to arrive in Victoria instead to scout out the area. They opted to move to Vancouver Island.
The plan was to buy a similar auto-trader paper, but that fell through.
“But while we were here, we also saw that people were doing things that they had not done before,” said Leigh. That gave them some courage, and, while scrolling through Kijiji, they saw the Coombs Junction sign shop for sale.
“We saw it on a Saturday, came down on Sunday, met the young fellow that started the business here… and it was perfect for us. So we bought it the next day,” Leigh said.
“We just figured we were business people, we knew how to run a business. It was similar to making ads for the newspaper, just much bigger.”
They learned their craft from the previous owner who worked for them for a time, and despite running up against some early hurdles (one of them being the challenge of doing a full wrap on one of their own cars), they kept going and found success.
While they provide both design work and sign-making in a variety of materials, as well as providing the application, it’s the last bit that’s perhaps the most fun, said Robin. “It’s just like big crafts every day,” he said.
Since taking over the shop in 2015, the family has had lots of supporters, especially the late John Rockley — owner of Coastal Colour Printing in Parksville, who “took us under his wing,” said Robin, providing advice and encouraging other businesses to give the Termaths a chance.
“Immediately, everybody was really supportive of us,” said Leigh. “It was incredible. People would come by here and say, ‘Welcome to the community.’”
The business has done well for other reasons also, Leigh said, noting how much more opportunity and encouragement for entrepreneurship there is on Vancouver Island as opposed to in the Bahamas.
“The entrepreneurship of people here — people just go, ‘I have an idea’ and they do it and it’s successful and people support them.”
From their vantage point, the Termaths are also able to see growth in local businesses. A good number of those are buying more vehicles as their businesses expand, giving Coombs Junction Signs more work as well.
“A lot of people I know, when they grow up here on the Island, they leave the Island for opportunities, and I guess I don’t blame them to want to go do something new,” said Leigh. “But we can’t believe how much the Island has grown.”
Coombs Junction Signs, Banners and More is located at 2701 Alberni Hwy. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more info, call 250-752-0866.