The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 23, 2009

HATS OFF TO ARBY’S

Ashtabula says goodbye to vintage sign

ASHTABULA — For decades the larger-than-life, electric cowboy hat towered over Route 20, advertising roast beef sandwiches with a vintage flair.

But the blinking lights on the old-fashioned Arby’s Restaurant sign will blink no more, as workers from the Peskin Sign Co. — which designed that original cowboy hat sign — lowered the neon landmark Monday afternoon.

The sign has drawn customers hungry for Arby’s roast beef lunches and dinners for more than 34 years — ever since the restaurant first opened its doors at West Prospect Road and West Avenue.

Before the restaurant opened in the early spring of 1975, the future employees, including a crew of local high school students, traveled for two months to Meadville, Pa., to train for the job.

The restaurant was an immediate success, later expanding to offer drive-through service.

Sign company employee Richard Cook said he installed the “drive thru” sign himself — 25 years ago.

“This is a great sign,” Cook said. “One of the last of its kind made like this.”

Cook said the crane that lowered the rounded top of the sign was the same crane that put it up. Peskin Sign Co. is the original design company of the Arby’s logo and continues to install new signs for the fast food chain.

“These signs can be dangerous to take down,” he said. “They are heavy, heavy signs, made of old material.”

Cook said the Arby’s company is progressively replacing the old signs with lighter, smaller plastic and aluminum signs.

“The big old signs are costly to maintain,” Cook said. “They have all these light bulbs, all these old electrical connections.”

Cook said sign collectors should take note of the remaining signs, as even the vintage cowboy hat on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown is coming down next.

Arby's was founded in Youngstown in 1964 by Forrest and Leroy Raffel, owners of a restaurant equipment business. There are 3,688 Arby’s restaurants in the United States and Canada, according to the Arby’s Website.

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