Thomas Bwarie, Signature Hand Engraving, Because Everyone Keeps Their Name
Thomas Bwarie
760-730-1456
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The Signature Story

Thomas Bwarie didn't know what to do. Almost overnight, his thriving retail business had disintegrated.

It was 2008, the pit of the worst global recession since World War II. For the first time in Bwarie's 30 years as a business owner, the phone stopped ringing, and sales calls came up empty. A fortune in inventory sat stagnant on the shelves, but he couldn't simply close his doors. He had two years remaining on an expensive lease.

"I was so frustrated and depressed," Bwarie remembers. "It was more
than scary."
And yet in the midst of crisis, Thomas Bwarie discovered the opportunity for reinvention. His current company, Signature Hand Engraving, perfectly blends his business acumen, innate generosity, and lifelong passion for art. To book Signature Hand Engraving for your next event, contact Tom Bwarie at tom@signaturehandengraving.com.

    Read more about our story.

    • Hard work and family values

    • Bwarie grew up in a family of hard-working Lebanese immigrants where business came first. His father, founder of a hugely successful men's clothing store near Los Angeles, modeled the work ethic that became the foundation of Bwarie's own entrepreneurial career.

      Following his dad's advice, Tom shelved his inclinations toward landscape architecture and majored in business at the University of Southern California, then took a job as a stockbroker.

      "But I hated it," Bwarie says. "I hated it so much that I quit. It was time to start making my own decisions."

      After three years working for a friend who owned a liquor store, Bwarie opened his own shop, selling wine, spirits and gift baskets. Two weeks later, he and his wife, Norma, welcomed their first child.


    • Surfboards and Steven Spielberg

    • "For the next five years, I worked from 8 am to 11 pm, 7 days a week," Bwarie says. "Norma worked right alongside me, and we raised our three kids in the store. It was so old-fashioned, but it worked for us."

      From 1977 to 1994, the Bwaries specialized in crafting one-of-a-kind gift baskets for high-end clients in LA's entertainment industry. Bwarie loved the creative challenge of delighting clients with unique personalized "baskets" made from unorthodox materials, even saddles and surfboards. For Steven Spielberg, he once stuffed a giant wicker picnic hamper full of goodies, plus a tape recorder that played the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.


    • Rubble and recession

    • In January 1994, the Northridge Earthquake rocked Los Angeles and left the Bwaries' store in shambles. It took six months to rebuild and reopen, and even then the area never really came back. Neither did the Bwaries' business. Heartbroken, the couple decided to leave LA and start over in Carlsbad, a seaside town near San Diego.

      For 12 successful years, the Bwarie Gift Basket Co. served an enthusiastic new customer base, anchored by area corporations. But in 2008, when the economic downturn forced companies to slash budgets, luxuries like gift baskets were among the first cuts. Bwarie's revenue tapered to a trickle. This time, there was no earthquake insurance to cover his losses — and no clear plan for recovery.

      "My life stagnated; I was just going through the motions of life each day," Bwarie recalls. "I'd go to the store each morning and do busy work to compensate for the fact that I didn't know where I was heading."


    • Signature events and souvenirs

    • A glimmer of hope reappeared when a business colleague suggested that Bwarie focus on a tiny piece of his former business — signature hand engraving. He'd mastered the skill 30 years before — to add an artistic personal touch to wine bottles and glassware. And he'd since volunteered at a couple of charity events, engraving guests' names on souvenir glasses.

      It was worth a try. Bwarie began by working wine tastings for tips, hoping to create enough supplementary income to survive the recession. Right away it became clear he was on to something more.

      At every event, guests crowded around to watch their names appear in exquisite penmanship on wine glasses they took home with pride. Event hosts appreciated the double benefit of providing guests both a branded souvenir and an interactive experience. And Tom Bwarie felt the clouds lift.

      "It tickled me that people saw how simple this service was and yet how impactful for the event," he says. "People came up to me and said, 'Thank you so much. This is the best part of any event I've ever been part of.'"

      Bwarie had found his answer, his way forward from the recession.

      "Within a few months, I knew this was what I was going to do," he says. "I was going to bring a fun, interactive experience to social and corporate events by hand engraving wine glasses and other mementos as gifts for everyone there."
Awards and Affiliations

Thomas Bwarie is the proud winner of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award for 2014-2015 Innovative Service or Product.

Bwarie is quick to insist that he shares this award with his wife and partner, Norma. "Though the years, Norma has worked right alongside me. In fact, we raised our three kids in our former store. Some might call us old-fashioned, but it works for us!"


...Because everyone keeps their Name!
Meeting Professionals International Society for Incentive Travel Excellence Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Carlsbad Small Business Awards
Thomas Bwarie, Signature Hand Engraving, Because Everyone Keeps Their Name
LinkedIn
Thomas Bwarie     760-730-1456
The Signature Story
Thomas Bwarie didn't know what to do. Almost overnight, his thriving retail business had disintegrated.

It was 2008, the pit of the worst global recession since World War II. For the first time in Bwarie's 30 years as a business owner, the phone stopped ringing, and sales calls came up empty. A fortune in inventory sat stagnant on the shelves, but he couldn't simply close his doors. He had two years remaining on an expensive lease.

"I was so frustrated and depressed," Bwarie remembers. "It was more than scary." And yet in the midst of crisis, Thomas Bwarie discovered the opportunity for reinvention. His current company, Signature Hand Engraving, perfectly blends his business acumen, innate generosity, and lifelong passion for art.

To book Signature Hand Engraving for your next event, contact Tom Bwarie at tom@signaturehandengraving.com.
Awards and Affiliations
Thomas Bwarie is the proud winner of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award for 2014-2015 Innovative Service or Product.

Bwarie is quick to insist that he shares this award with his wife and partner, Norma. "Though the years, Norma has worked right alongside me. In fact, we raised our three kids in our former store. Some might call us old-fashioned, but it works for us!"


...Because everyone keeps their Name!
Meeting Professionals International

Society for Incentive Travel Excellence

Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Carlsbad Small Business Awards
LinkedIn