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San Clemente Journal

Signs of the Times

Nov 28, 2023 08:03PM ● By Don Kindred

Phil Tessier

by Don Kindred

For close to five decades, much of the commercial and way-finding signage in San Clemente was created or at least maintained by a small shop in the Los Molinos Business District.

The owner of that shop was Phil Tessier, a San Fernando Valley transplant who had moved to San Clemente in 1969 when San Clemente was just a small town of under 18,000 people.
I ran into Phil, now retired, recently after he had just come across a pile of old Polaroids that he had collected during his career. He asked me if I cared to look through them. “Of course”, I replied. (I love that stuff.)

Phil, who had grown up with an artistic talent, went to work soon after arriving in town as a sign painter for Rich Richardson at Creations Unlimited. He became Rich’s partner in 1971 and eventually took over the business, re-naming it Signs by Creations Unlimited. 

There had already been big changes in the technique and materials of business signs. In Ole’s day names were mostly hand-painted on the side of the building. After the advent of neon, much of our downtown was adorned with great metal signs that were attached to tall poles or bolted to structures that could be seen for miles.

The evolution of signage would continue dramatically during Tessier’s career. Most of the pole signs and building signs would come down, replaced by flouresent back-lit plexiglass, pan-channel letters and sand-blasted wood signs, lit by architectural and ground lighting, that would become the city’s new preference. 

Of course, computers and the digital revolution have replaced much of what was done by hand. It has expanded the creative choices, and materials. 

Phil still lives in San Clemente with his wife Linda. They have two daughters, Anne and Jennifer, who spent all their school years in San Clemente, and six grand children. 
And signage, the oldest form of advertising, is still thriving.