2007 Yonkers Businessman of the Year
After graduating from college, Michael Santoliquido realized he wasn't cut out for the 9 to 5, suit and tie type of job.
After working for Yonkers-based Vector Graphics and Supplies - his uncle's company - throughout high school and college, Santoliquido gained extensive knowledge and experience with the supplies and materials necessary to manufacture signs.
At age 22, Santoliquido purchased a computer and a plotter - a printer that cuts vinyl - and opened up San Signs and Awnings in a 500-square-foot space his parents' house in 1995.
"I went to my parents and said, 'Guys, I need some money. I'm going to start my own company,'" Santoliquido said. "My father said I was crazy, I was too young and I shouldn't do it. Without 100 percent of their support, I did it anyway."
Business had been going well for San Signs and Awnings and, in 1998, at the urging of his uncle, Santoliquido moved the business out of his parents' basement and into a space at 925 Saw Mill River Road, which he just bought. "(My uncle) said to me, 'Put your business in a big pot and it'll grow.'"
With 25 employees, which includes his mother who takes care of accounts payable and accounts receivable, San Signs and Awnings works within a 125-mile radius of Yonkers across the tri-state area creating and installing commercial and architectural signs, banners and awnings.
The company also handles commercial - and emergency-vehicle graphics and graphic design, as well as printing for business cards, letterheads and envelopes. "Anything where you want to reproduce your logo, we can do it for you," Santoliquido said.
San Signs and Awnings' work can be found all across the city. Some examples include the signage and awnings at Zuppa Restaurant and Lounge, The Pier View and Belle Havana, as well as work for the Yonkers Parking Authority and the Yonkers Public Schools.
Part of Santoliquido's success with San Signs and Awnings is the result of the high level of encouragement the city and its administration give to local business owners.
"The support this city gives you is immense. They are pro-Yonkers business, from the mayor's office to the Office of General Services to the Parking Authority to the Industrial Development Agency," Santoliquido said. "Being that Yonkers is not only an Economic Development Zone, but also an Empire Zone, those were two major factors in me staying here and buying a building here. I went from 500 square feet at my parents' house to 3,500 square feet to 15,000 square feet to now owning the building at 33,000 square feet."
With a handful a projects already under way, Santoliquido can't wait to make his mark in the redevelopment of the city.
"This is where my foundation is, and this is where I want to continue to grow," Santoliquido said. "As the City of Yonkers grows, I grow. It's a direct correlation."
Week of April 30, 2007 - Yonkers Business Week