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Neon back in the Horizon

Erik Sine

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Despite the few historic classic signs that lost their way into newer technologies and lost themselves it's apparent more and more that Neon's demand is back in the horizon by the consumer.

We know more custom sign shops are preferring their fabrication to go all LED because they lack the technical "know how" & creative craftsmanship compared to the signs shops that are more diverse in their manufacturing integrating all light sources. These sign shops even go so far as to convince the minds of the consumer by feeding them made up and false brochure marketing claims such as the The Pillsbury Dough Boy Sign fiasco.

But within the last year we've seen a turn around especially in the wholesale side of our industry. Demand for neon is coming back, via the consumer. If you're still doing neon then I'm sure you've seen how the competition is less and obviously this means the margin is higher.....well because if there aren't very many who have continued in the market or remember, well that means there isn't anyone around to compete. Chances are if you're still around doing neon, it means you were doing something rights and the low quality shops have been washed away leaning the market out.

Matter of fact, if you're still fabricating & installing Neon you might want to stay ahead of the curve and integrate the word "Neon" back in your business name. Some shops over the years have chosen to toss the word "Neon" out of their business name because they didn't want the consumers to associate them with "just" Neon. Maybe not such a smart move after all, consumers who want to pay for what they get will be looking up shops with the word "Neon" because it will be a nich market, a specialty that won't be associated with "Sign Shop, or Graphics".

On the story below, interesting how the shop owner chose not to accept any kind of rebate or subsidy for the revival of HIS sign. A light source that can stand on it's own and by it's own merit. Maybe that's just his character in understanding that he doesn't want to tax the taxpayers (his neighbors), or steal from Pete to give to Paul like some of these other state and energy tax rebate programs they give consumers by choosing light soures like LEDs (where government picks the winner not the consumer) that are more expensive that give an unfair advantage to justify undefined and false Return On Investment figures.

This man should be applauded, he's doing it on his own, paying for his own project because he knows it will last, just like it has since 1965 with just a "little" bit of help.

The California Sign Association Tree Hugger , or Broccoli Eater once prided herself in saying that "Green is not a trend, it's a migration". I said back then she didn't know what she was talking about and nothings changed today, she still doesn't know what she's talking about because she's still nothing more than a "Marketeer".

Trust me when I say, Neon will snowball back into the market. Those outside of our industry (Light source manufacturers & Marketeers) tried their best to have it shamed out of the market place and in marketing guilt by using the fictitious "Green Movement" to mischaracterize all conventional light sources as a "dirty" word. A lot of the sign industry especially our leadership bought into it, they still do today. If you think about it, CCFL light sources are VERY efficient!!!

Neon....LED....Fluorescent all have their place for signs. One thing I've always said, a successful shop/individual should do is always find that niche market and DO what the others AREN'T!

Maybe I should stop giving away free unsolicited business advice on how to make money and stay ahead of the curve myself!

Pocatello business refurbishes its sign: Project in keeping with Light up the Night effort


POCATELLO — A businessman whose family has been in the shoe repair business since 1956 restored his shop’s street sign in keeping with the ongoing efforts to “Light up the Night.”

“I took the old existing sign and had it totally repainted,” said Jerry Meyers, of Meyers Shoe Repair at 508 E. Center St. “I had all the neon fixed on it. I actually refaced it also. They put new metal on both sides to straighten it up. It really looks nice.”

He took the sign to Blaze Sign and Graphic Design, which worked on it for three weeks before it was reinstalled on Friday. While the Light Up the Night committee offered Meyers grants to help cover the cost, he declined.

“I didn’t feel right about it. I felt better doing it myself,” he said.

Meyers’ inspiration came after several neighboring business opened up shop and repaired their signs. It also helped that Randy Dixon of the Light Up the Night Committee met with him about doing so.

“He kind of helped convince me to go ahead and have the neon sign fixed. I got a bid to get the whole thing done and decided on what I was going to do from there. I just decided to have the whole thing fixed,” Meyers said.

After nearly 60 years, the sign really needed an upgrade, he said.

“The paint was peeling and everything. Everybody was putting in new signs and fixing things up. I followed suit and had my sign fixed up,” he said.

He said it’s good to see the new sign.

“I feel better when I come to work. Instead of looking up at an ugly old peeling paint sign, I see this one,” he said.

The improvements are what the lighting committee has hoped for ever since it reinstalled the old Chief Theatre neon sign at its old location, according to Dixon.

“Jerry did a great job,” he said.

Neon signage proves an important issue in Pocatello, Dixon said.

“It’s a hot item right now. I like to think that (Meyers) set an example. It’s a great decision. His sign may be the first of many signs that are updated, restored or repaired by business owners,” he said.

The interest in neon signage got its boost thanks to the relighting of the old Chief Theatre sign about 18 months ago. The old sign spent 20 years in storage at the airport before being restored and placed in its former location.

“When we see somebody like Jerry relighting his own sign, we are encouraged because it has caused excitement in the community,” Dixon said.

Those old signs take people on a trip down memory lane while also establishing interest in Old Town Pocatello, Dixon said.

“Our priorities have come back. There is a real honest moment of historic preservation. Old signs are public art. We’ve got to preserve our history; it’s our responsibility,” he said.

It’s hoped that other businesses will follow suit in upgrading their old neon signs.

“We’re trying to convince business owners to restore their signs as well. We can really create a historic feel and a great old town feel. It may even be a draw for tourism,” Dixon said.

He noted that Las Vegas has an old neon sign display that’s turned into quite an attraction.

"We’re never going to rival Vegas. I don’t think we’re trying to do that. What we’re trying to do is relight what we have. The potential is there to relight,” he said.

The community has 25 or 30 really nice neon signs that the group hopes will be restored.

“We’re certainly trying to get attention to Pocatello’s history with our neon signs,” he said.

As for Meyers Shoe Repair, Jerry Meyers says that his customers have taken note of the refurbished sign, too.

“So far, I’ve had some people tell me it’s great,” he said.

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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People and "real neon benders" ( even on here) said we were wasting our time fixing beer signs. Now we have a reputation for fixing old beer signs among the collectors and that is leading to other neon work ontop of the wholesale and window signs we already have. Our neon guy swore a few years ago that neon would die out by now and yet today he was talking about how he still busy and for now and it will die out in a few years. That was from a conversation we had with a another sign guy that went to the last show in Orlando and said he saw new LED products that look great for window signs. But I have a feeling that a year or two after those hit the streets and single LEDs burn out people will go back to neon again.

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  • !llumenati

I don't recall "real neon benders," saying that beer signs were a waste of time? Perhaps trying to repair one of the painted neon beer signs is......because the paint burns off. Personally I always found beer signs were good money however often times many tube benders sell their skills too cheap. Neon has been going out every time s new fad hits the market bit neon keeps surviving. This time it'll be more interesting because somsny mfgs have turned their backs on neon and quit producing

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  • !llumenati

For the life of me I can't figure out the strange color choice for the blackout between letters in the picture.

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There is SOOOooo much to that statement.

Right now there is demand but not much to fill that demand coming from the manufacturer and supplier to the Neon shops.

There is a shortage of transformers stocked at the supplier, UL costs and regulations are/have killed the manufacturer to continue making these products. Silicone GTO is skyrocketing in cost. There is a shortage in personal at these manufacturers and some are making a bigger mess of things. Some manufacturers are too wrapped up in their LED side that they don't give a shit what happens with their Neon side.

Oh, and to complicate things the more the Neon people buy the cheapo products and not the quality products that they would want to use or should use, the producers of the manufacturer (overseas sweatshops) charge them more to make because the qty is smaller. So, cost on the good stuff quantifies, costs even higher to make, no one want s to pay...so pretty soon the manufacturer will have no choice but to phase that out. So to all the Neon people, either start paying more, support what YOU want to be there for you in the future, and charge more for your products there is PLENTY of room to do so with no competition, OR.... you will be stuck with nothing BUT the cheapo crap that the hacks have used for years and you will once again stick a thumb in the eye of the Neon Industry giving it a bad name again within the consumer and they will look elsewhere at OTHERE attractive less problematic light sources that LOOK like Neon

A bit further out, some of these Neon mfg's should start considering omitting the whole UL process all together and "don't ask don't tell". The UL inspectors and local inspectors don't know what the hell their looking at anyway, all they know is to look at the UL sticker and sign off anyway.

The Neon market may have to get a little "underground" in order to survive.

The demand is there from the consumer, the sign shops not so much. Some shops who were once deemed themselves "diverse" have changed their outlook that LEDs are the "practical" choice.....PPPPFFFffttt, whatever that means!

So....an industry that hangs in the balalnce by a shoelace is all that is around to support the soon rising demand of Neon again that is coming back again (likeit always has). The ones that hang around will be the ones that will reap the fruit, and deserving so.

This time it'll be more interesting because somsny mfgs have turned their backs on neon and quit producing

Gary, stop it!

For the life of me I can't figure out the strange color choice for the blackout between letters in the picture.

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You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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The black blockout is unfortunate, but relatively forgiveable. The bright green appears to be masking tape, identifying the tubes from one side of the sign vs the other.

I concur on the cheap-and-available-vs-expensive-but-better materials front.

Since the beginning of the year, I'm finding myself buying a lot of neonpro's. I wish I had a good alternative for 12kv-equivalent indoor transformers that wasn't twice as expensive.

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