Happiness is spotting a quality vintage sign. It’s even better when it’s in good shape and a brand you know.
When Arby’s first opened in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964, the neon ten-gallon hat was a big part of their brand. The company used it as their logo until the mid-seventies and these signs have steadily disappeared from the American streetscape ever since.
I read once that there are about a hundred of them left and I’ve seen a few including one in a town along Route 23 in Kentucky. That was several years ago but I do hope it still exists.
These old signs are costly to maintain and many are grandfathered in to local codes. In other words, many cities won’t allow signs this big or flashy to be installed but they allow existing signs to stay.
I also suspect that the chain makes franchise owners pitch the signs if they demolish and rebuild. The neon mid-century style doesn’t fit well with the new Arby’s brand and the boxy buildings that seem to make up the modern fast food world.
Personally, I’m a fan of character and of things that stand out to let you know where you are. You can spot the trademark red roof and wood siding of an old school Pizza Hut from a mile away. Yet the sleek, modern design reminds me of the box my toaster came in and they just melt into the background. These towns that demand everything be brick and that signs be white rectangles that fit in the same brick box used by everyone else are not my kind of towns.
Give me places like Muncie, Indiana where character and pizazz rule the street. These are the places that make me happy!
Here’s another vintage sign that still exists in Muncie!