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Continued: Accent rebuilds after Minneapolis workplace rampage

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS and TODD NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 5, 2013 - 11:41 AM

“When we got back to work we just started figuring things out one by one,” Grandner said.

Strategic shifts

Accent Signage Systems sits on a small hill overlooking Bassett Creek in a long, low-slung rectangular building with a flag hoisted in front.

The building, built in 1940, was the headquarters and factory for the Burma-Vita Co., whose Burma-Shave shaving cream became a top seller thanks to the popularity of its rhyming roadside signs.

The hum and buzz of Accent’s engraving machines now fill the air.

In addition to interior signs, the company makes wall panels, including backlit light-emitting diode (LED) panels, for various kinds of displays.

The recession forced the company to plot new strategies. John Souter, who joined Accent after years in research and development with 3M Co., helped move Accent toward the growing demand for green building materials.

Souter, the head of operations, was key in creating its “Materia” lines of interior signs fashioned from such materials as cashew extracts, plant starches, recycled paper and sawdust.

It was in Souter’s office, next to Rahamim’s, where the shooting began after Souter and production manager Rami Cooks informed Engeldinger of his termination.

Souter said that as he opened his office door, he looked over his right shoulder to see Engeldinger raising a gun toward Souter’s head. Souter grabbed the barrel and pointed it upward as rounds began firing. After several shots had been fired, Souter was hit twice and fell to the ground.

Cooks was killed, as were employees Ron Edberg, Eric Rivers and Jacob Beneke, along with UPS driver Keith Basinski.

Souter, 63, continues to recover from the ordeal, although he appeared in good physical shape and spirits during a recent interview.

He said Friday that he expects to undergo a CT scan to see if fluid has built up in his right lung, which lost 30 percent of its capacity. He said he hopes to return to work part-time by early May, as soon as the remodeling is done. The plan has been for him to become CEO.

“I have four guardian angels,” Souter said. “One is the surgeon, the other one is my general practitioner, the third one is, believe it or not, a psychiatrist and the fourth is physiotherapy. When three out of four say ‘go,’ I’m going. My cat wants me out of the house.”

Retail displays

Accent’s most recent projects involve edge-lit LED panels, shelving and displays for retail customers.

On the factory floor, Grandner showed off a strip of LED lights to run along the edges of thin acrylic panels to produce a uniform luminance across the panel’s surface. The company is doing similar things with shelving.

It’s great timing, said Sanford Stein, of Stein LLC in Minneapolis. Stein, which develops store designs for retailers, has been helping Accent move into that world.

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