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Orange County’s JPS Designs and Division 2 Constructions Presents Clients With Exciting and Custom Retail Design

Written by: Tyler Holland Made-To-Order Retail Spaces and Experiences With JPS Designs
Photographed by: Stephen Panosian

The Expert: Jim Smith
Credentials: Founder and owner, JPS Designs and Division 2 Constructions (D2C)
Client Control: Smith’s companies ensure each client’s unique vision is fully realized

JPS Designs and D2C are self-funded, locally operated, grass roots, one-stop shops dedicated to the design, fabrication and construction of retail spaces, trade show booths and promotional experiences. The ability to handle everything from conception to production is made possible through the cross pollination of these two companies. D2C, which handles the general construction, project management and millwork installation phase of the projects, is an essential part of the total package offered by JPS Designs. The company places an emphasis on understanding the client’s vision and turning that vision into a reality. This ensures the client’s vision is realized in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. Despite the fast-paced nature of the work, Jim Smith, the company’s owner, takes a friendly and relaxed approach to business. Instead of using pre-packaged presentations, he prefers to talk with each client and understand their desires. This laid-back vibe is reflected through the welcoming interior of JPS Designs, where Jim talks about the practices that have made both of his companies such a success.

Q: How did JPS Designs begin and eventually become the company it is today?

Jim Smith: JPS Designs began as a design and millwork fabrication service in Newport Beach in 1999, with a focus on brand services in the commercial and retail industries. We started really small and primarily worked in the action sports industry. At that time, I was fortunate enough to get connected with Bob Hurley. During the first seven years, Hurley became one of the biggest accounts we worked with and JPS Designs became their go-to company for displays, retail shop in shops and trade show booths. This set the foundation for what JPS is today. Along the seven-year period, we got more exposure and locked in the action sports companies from big to small and everywhere in between. During that period, I also noticed a need for full service companies. Now, with the help of our sister company, Division 2 Construction, or D2C, we do installations as well, which is a major selling point amongst our clients and one reason they keep coming back to us. Bill Artukovich of Division 2 Construction (co-owner) is a valuable asset to our organization and has been working with me since 2007.

Q: What services do you offer that help you fully realize the client’s vision?

JS: Our offerings are really broad. JPS Designs and D2C combined are a full service operation from start to finish. We offer design first, then let clients know we also provide millwork fabrication and general construction. We can condition a space to install millwork and we offer nationwide retail and fixture rollouts as well in states such as Texas, Florida and New York. We have a 15, 000-square-foot shop in Santa Ana and will have a 10, 000-square-foot shop set up in January strictly for metal fabrication work to better suit clients’ needs. JPS Designs will also be moving across the street to our new, improved design home as of December first. Our fabrication facility is another aspect of the company designed to achieve the client’s vision in the most cost effective and efficient way possible. We offer overseas display fabrication for our clients at a discounted rate versus domestic production. This application requires four to five month lead time depending on the size and scope of the project.

Q: Where do you draw your design inspirations from?

JS: I consider myself to be the visionary behind JPS and D2C, but I am not physically involved in the process. I have a really strong design group behind me. My job is to feed the fire and seize opportunity wherever it may come up.

Q: Do you have preset designs for clients to choose from, or is every design unique?

JS: JPS Designs is definitely not a cookie cutter, off-the-shelf service. Everything is unique unto itself. Some clients come in with the full package—presentation board, story board and all—and only want pricing, while some come in with only a vision and the desire to make something great. For example, one company started out as ideas on a napkin and has now grown to 20 stores. All we ask is for you to feed as much info as you can and we’ll take it from there.

Q: You mentioned some companies approach you with only an idea, but generally, is there a point where you need companies to be further along in the process before approaching you?

JS: I will never turn down a client, but will ask that they give us some guidance. In other words, help me help you. At the very least, some tear sheets or JPEG clips from Google Images of the type of look you’re going for is very much appreciated. Putting an inspiration folder together helps quicken up the process. At the moment, we have one client with a lot of funding behind them, but no name or color scheme. As a result, we can’t get into interior space design, but as soon as they have some ideas, we can work on it from there.

Q: How many people are on your team?

JS: Combined, JPS and D2C currently have 30 people working for us.

Q: Do most employees have more than one job in the company or is each person more specialized in their role?

JS: We have a sales, project management, design, administrative and architectural team. A handful of our sales guys are also on project management, so they have the ability to walk clients through the whole process, start to finish. They are the client’s contact point throughout the project. A few years back JPS acquired Chris Cole, a major player in our space who also happens to be a lifelong friend of mine. He has a unique role with JPS covering all aspects of our services. The addition of Chris has increased our sales and expanded our brand recognition. Our in-house architect, Erin Morris, is a separate entity but part of our package and a key part of our full service retail. Positions such as hers are specialized.

Q: Does location play a role in the design process?

JS: Location was one reason a new client we are currently working with came to us. We got the contract due to a referral. Initially it was down to two companies, an East Coast company and us. We ended up getting the job because we’re a West Coast company and they’re looking for their stores to portray a West Coast vibe, so location does factor into the process. It also helps to know the area’s jurisdictions, such as building codes, which need to be complied with. Fortunately, we are familiar with most major jurisdictions nationwide.

Q: Is there a common element or theme to your designs?

JS: We do everything from modern to rustic and eclectic and do everything we can to stay within the realm of the brand. We can work with any medium and focus on any vibe. For the last few years, the reclaimed look that utilizes organics and woods has been hot, but there is a noticeable shift towards colors, reflective and glossy materials. Our common element is more of a dedicated focus on what the brand wants to portray. Every case is different.

Q: Are there any companies or industries you’re trying to get involved with?

JS: During our first five or six years we were really embedded with the surf and action sports industry, then ventured into the hospitality industry and designing for corporate environments. We had been trying to break into the restaurant market and only recently got into it. We are now on our third restaurant. Without experience, companies were hesitant in letting us design/build for them, but we were fortunate enough to position JPS and D2C with a company that was opening up new restaurants. Now, when approaching restaurants and bars, we can say we have that experience. This is another example of being in the right place at the right time. However, despite venturing into other areas, action sports will always be our bread and butter.

Q: Do you have any projects overseas?

JS: At the moment we have an overseas facility for fabrication. Our facility outside of Shanghai is our most efficient and effective method to help keep prices down for our clients. I’d like to become more closely tied with our Shanghai factory and there could be joint application down the road.

Q: What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in your company?

JS: Retail has taken on a whole new level of opportunity for us. We have always worked in retail doing designs, displays and shop in shops, but now we build retail from the ground up. Over the past five to six years, JPS Designs and D2C have become legitimate service providers and have turned into a one-stop shop for retail and commercial development from conception to end. We take great pride in this because it’s something not many companies can do.

Q: From start to finish, how long does it typically take to create a trade show booth or retail space?

JS: This is subjective. For a 2, 500-square-foot retail space, it will typically take four months, but really five to air on the side of caution. It takes one month in design, one month in architectural development and engineering, six to eight weeks in the permitting stages and six to eight weeks to build the store once all permits have been obtained. For a 10, 000-square-foot space it could take one month more, but time can be eliminated if the client already has the design in place. For a 30×40 trade show booth, it takes about one month in design, then 8-12 weeks in fabrication. After the fabrication process, the booth can be shipped out to the trade show and assembled.

Q: Earlier you said action sports will always be your bread and butter. Do you consider action sports your specialty?

JS: I don’t want the company to be pigeonholed into a certain area, so I wouldn’t claim we have any one specialty. We have expanded out of the action sports market and have opened up new and exciting opportunities in all kinds of other spaces. We can cater to clients in all markets.

Q: What do you do to stay on top of constantly changing trends in the marketplace?

JS: The retail world has a three-year shop life for shops and displays. Most of the time, there will need to be a refresh and restart to keep the look current. As in the initial design process, we listen to what our client wishes to achieve and bring their vision to life. Some have a set color, design and layout and don’t deviate from it, while others want a completely refreshed look. Whatever they want, we act as the vehicle to provide it to them.

Q: How do you deal with issues that come up?

JS: We are really quick to respond to any general questions or issues that arise throughout the entire process. Things happen when building and we are good at putting out fires, so to speak, and finding resolve. One thing I make sure of is there will never be an unopened email at the end of the day. Communication is definitely the key.

Quality Time: When not working at JPS Designs and Division 2 Constructions, Smith enjoys hanging with his wife and two girls at home, on the beach, on their boat and RV or taking family road trips.

 Smith encourages mid-day activities at JPS Designs/D2C such as surfing, bike riding and running so the staff can decompress and come back to work re-loaded with newfound energy and ideas.​  “We have never worked inside the box so we don’t have to worry about thinking outside of it!” Smith says.

JPS Designs / Division 2 Construction (D2C)
127 Industrial Way
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
949.650.9992