As a model of hard work, treating people as they would like to be treated, and entrepreneurial spirit, Jim and Sharon Weinel pursued the American dream.
Starting in a garage in St. Louis Park, Jim and Sharon positioned Gemini to eventually become a recognized industry leader in dimensional signage. Today, Gemini Inc. specializes in producing made-to-order dimensional signage, protective hard cases, and custom parts. With eight production facilities across North America and over 1,000 team members, we are dedicated to manufacturing quality solutions while providing premier customer service. Follow our timeline of major milestones and get an insider look into Gemini.
Jim and Sharon purchased Gemini for $160. Renting a garage in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, the pair began manufacturing sign components, custom parts, packaging, and other consumer and industrial products. Jim purchased two vacuum formers and sheet stock for $100. He started working at G.T. Schjeldahl Company on high-classification projects for NASA before transitioning to Gemini. Gemini is named after the Nasa Space Program, Gemini.
“But my career was about to take a momentous turn. Carl Bergquist was a friend who had left Schjeldahl with me. He told me about Gemini, a small company that was broke. I didn’t know at the time how auspicious that would prove to be.” - Jim Weinel in Made True, Setting Gemini’s Gold Standard for Success
Gemini building in 1964
Gemini printed its first one-page catalog, and production expanded into formed plastic letters, our longest-running product line. A Wheaties contract made Gemini possible in the early years of the company by manufacturing red styrene cereal bowls. Jim traversed the Upper Midwest in the family’s station wagon, calling on customers while Sharon built their mailing list.
Formed plastic letters
A fire destroyed the building, including inventory and finished projects, forcing Jim and Sharon to start over.
“Quitting and giving up on the company did not seem to be an option. At one point, Don Mensing looked at Harry Tyson at Northwestern National Bank and said, “Jim is going to need some money to get going again, so you put $35,000 into the business and I will sign the note.” His signature meant a lot. And that’s how we started over.” - Jim Weinel in Made True, Setting Gemini’s Gold Standard for Success
Don Mensing was the owner of the Minnesota Malting Company. He was one of the founding partners of Gemini and the first chairman of Gemini's Board of Directors from the 1960s to 1980s.
Images of the 1968 fire
Gemini relocated to Cannon Falls, Minnesota, a small farming town an hour southeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Cannon Falls provided ample space for manufacturing facilities and a growing workforce. At this time, company sales hit $1,000,000 for the first time, and we introduced our first official thermoformed case line, Karry Kase.
“When we would go to the open houses, Jim and Sharon would walk up and recall details about their families. It’s a true family-oriented organization, and everybody felt like they were a part of the family. With over 600 employees, how did they remember it all? They just treated people like people.” - Tim, a current member of the Gemini family since 2002
Drawing of Karry Kases
Production expanded beyond Minnesota and national borders when we established Gemini Canada.
Installed our first plastic sheet extruder and opened a new plant in Decorah, Iowa. This allowed us to produce ABS, Polyethylene, CAB, and acrylic feedstock. We manufactured our first injection-molded letters and published our first Technical Guide. We also added our first robot-assisted manufacturing cell and laser cutting and fabrication.
“We’re always looking for product development. We came to the market with precision tooled plaques, fabricated letters, illuminated products, and Duets by Gemini. We’re continuously moving ahead, never resting. When we first started, we were manufacturing cereal bowls, and we’re a long way from that.” - Ellen, a current member of the Gemini family for 15 years
Jim and Sharon Weinel
Sharon Weinel at a tradeshow
Gemini at National Electric Sign Show
Gemini invested in plants in Taylor, Texas, Fallon, Nevada, and acquired 24 companies. As we continued to expand our offerings, we opened our first foundry, installed our first laser to cut acrylic, introduced anodized letters, and installed our first waterjet cutter. Gemini also added rotational molding to its growing list of manufacturing capabilities to provide a more rugged and robust case line, now called Stronghold™.
“I think one of the defining moments for Gemini was when Jim bought Spanjer Bros, which was the leader in the sign industry for manufacturing at the time. Gemini has really done well in reinvesting in the business, both on the letters and cases side” - Scott, a current member of the Gemini family for 31 years
Building the second Taylor plant in 1995
Fallon start up in 1994
In response to a growing demand for precision manufacturing services, we added manufacturing facilities in Farmville, Virginia. We broadened our capabilities by introducing Trim Cap, architectural plaques, and laminated products. We built a new fabricated letter plant in Mexico and reinvested in Gemini cases. By 1997, Gemini’s first fully injection molded case was introduced as the “Gemstar”. In 2003, Gemini’s case division becomes Gemstar, soon to become Gemstar Manufacturing, a division of parent company, Gemini Inc.
“We were married for sixty-six years before Sharon passed, and I can honestly say that without my wife, Sharon, the company would not be where it is today. She had an amazing ability to stick with a project. One such project was the mailing list, which required an infinite amount of patience. She would look up the sign company with the name, address, phone number, and architect. And she would do this all by hand and then put them into a book for each separate area. She kept all the same names from every region up to date. It was absolutely unbelievable.” - Jim Weinel in Made True, Setting Gemini’s Gold Standard for Success
Hand-finishing letters and Fred Oss in 2005 at a tradeshow
In October 2008, Fred Oss transitioned to CEO of Gemini.
We took advantage of exciting technological advances, installing a metal cutting laser, selling its first LED-lit letters, and adding a large plaque foundry in Iowa. We added a state-of-the-art extrusion and plastics facility. In 2013, we celebrated our 50th anniversary.
Duets by Gemini, a full line of premium rotary and laser engraving substrates, launched and began to create a network of distribution partners. We opened a Washington state call center to provide additional support to partners.
“Gemini has a culture of caring for people – from its customers to its employees. We commonly refer to Gemini as one big family. Our employees are the best around.” - Nancy, a current member of the Gemini family for 22 years
Jim Weinel at Decorah facility in 2014 and Cannon Falls Open House 2013
We began offering bronze memorials exclusively to monument builders. A new 40,000-square-foot facility was built for Gemstar Manufacturing at the Cannon Falls campus.
“I’ve been here since I was 18. I first started as a second-shift finisher and then was a machine operator. My favorite job now has been calling and onboarding new partners. A lot of them are mom-and-pop shops. In general, the company has grown: the employees and the products we make. The letters we made were the products that made the company. We also changed a lot of our technology that’s helped with productivity and getting orders out quicker.” - Brenda, a current member of the Gemini family for 42 years
Cannon Falls campus
We added another manufacturing location in Mesquite, Texas. We acquired Identification Plates Inc., (IDP) to offer sheet metal stock and custom blanks in the Awards and Recognition industry, as well as commerical nameplates and promotional products. Gemstar Manufacturing refreshes the brand with two distinct divisions, Gemstar Protective Hard Cases and Gemstar Custom Part Solutions.
“Looking back, I can honestly say that I would not do anything any differently. There is nothing that I have done that I wish I hadn’t done. It worked for us.” - Jim Weinel in Made True, Setting Gemini’s Gold Standard for Success
Over the last five years, we have made significant investments in our customer experience, digital tools, and manufacturing processes to support our partners better. We’re focusing on the future of Gemini and how we can make it easier for our partners to work with us, all while staying true to the values Jim and Sharon modeled. We’re excited for all that’s to come in our 60th year and the years to follow.
Gemini is a wholesale manufacturer of solutions that identify, direct, and protect the world. For 60 years, Gemini has been an industry leader producing made-to-order dimensional signage, plates, plaques, cast bronze memorials, industrial protective cases, and plastic parts. Gemini is a second-generation family-owned business headquartered in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, with production facilities throughout North America. For more information, visit geminimade.com