Dwinell's sign company in Kennewick closes

YAKIMA -- Dwinell's Visual Systems, a longtime Yakima sign company that had its start before World War II, has closed.

Former employees of the firm said Tuesday they were told Feb. 8 the company would go out of business.

Other Dwinell's Visual Systems outlets in Kennewick and Minneapolis, Minn., also closed.

Officials of the firm, including owner Chuck Colmenero of Selah, could not be reached for comment on the closure.

An estimated 30 employees lost their jobs, one former employee said.

The company building at 101 Butterfield Road, into which the firm relocated in October 2008, was closed Tuesday.

The 37,000-square-foot building previously housed the Yakima Greenway Foundation bingo operation.

Prior to that, the building housed Ziegler Building Center.

Employees are still waiting for final payroll checks.

Others in the sign industry in Yakima said the firm had scaled back its employment as business slowed.

Another former employee said the business was a victim of the economic downturn that saw companies pull back on plans for signs.

The employee, who asked that his name not be used, said the owner tried to keep the business going as long as possible.

The firm's Internet site said Dwinell's had a regional scope, including Washington state and parts of Oregon and Idaho. The firm offered sign products, maintenance contracts, installation and service.

Dwinell's started as Central Neon in 1940 by Cliff Wells.

David Dwinell of Vashon, Wash., now in the mortgage banking industry, said his father, Don Dwinell, bought the company in 1953 and renamed it Dwinell's Central Neon.

The firm operated on Yakima's East Nob Hill Boulevard for many years.

Dwinell said his father retired in 1978 and he operated the business until 2003, when he sold the company to Colmenero.

"It has been an icon, a well-established company for 70 years," David Dwinell said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "It is very sad to see it go."