Phil’s Gift Shop and Ellis Bros Furniture still exist in Binghamton, New York, but you can no longer drive past these vintage signs, which are located in the Washington Street pedestrian mall downtown. Ellis Brothers Fine Home Furnishings was founded in 1900 and has occupied the same location for over a century. Phil’s Gift Shop, owned by the Ellis family since 1939, moved north to 136 East Service Road (along Interstate 88).
The Pasta Man neon sign at La Trattoria, 522 Moosic Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Voted best Italian Restaurant in the Scranton Times readers choice award.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with old signs–neon signs, ghost signs, populuxe styles, etc. They represent a living memory of the past, and express uniqueness and character from a time when business owners displayed confidence and the promise of permanence.
Nothing lasts forever, of course, especially in the realm of business, but these signs were clearly designed for the long term. Proof is the fact many of these signs have outlasted the businesses themselves. Some, like the Crystal Restaurant in Watertown, New York, beat the odds and have survived for nearly a century.
I first came across this old diner at the corner of Main and Broad streets in Johnson City, New York last winter. It was closed then, but looks like it’s reopened. The Red Robin Diner, at 268 Main Street, is a classic Mountain View-style diner that originally opened in neighboring Binghamton in 1950 and moved to its present location in 1959. The 35-ton diner took two hours to move. Chris and Pat Anagnostakos ran the business for 37 years until retirement. I love everything about this place, from the vintage 7-Up sign to the neon lights and chrome exterior.
Neon and incandescent signs were popular during the first half of the twentieth century and used to line America’s main streets, especially in larger cities. They consisted of glass tubes bent into a variety of shapes and lit with colorful gas. Sadly, after World War 2 they were considered garish, ugly, and expensive, so many were removed. In some cases, businesses removed the neon lights but kept the signs. It’s a shame because they add character and uniqueness to a commercial district.