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Help us restore this:

Sign Damage

To its original glory:

Beer Depot Sign - Photo By Spencer Thomas
Photo By Spencer Thomas

We’re Almost There! Thank You!


Almost There!

After nearly two years of red tape and other miscellaneous delays, the sign is back up! The neon will be added next week, and after some electrical work and inspections, we should be able to light it up. We’d like to offer a huge thanks to all our customers and members of the community who signed petitions, and especially to the handful of supporters who donated via the Indiegogo campaign. A little over five hundred dollars was raised directly through Indiegogo, and more support was generated off line as a result of the attention the campaign generated. Web-based funding is a wonderful thing, but never underestimate the power of the coffee can donation and word of mouth! We’ll have more photos and updates next week as the physical work moves along. Thank you Ann Arbor for helping us preserve this little piece of classic Americana!

Posted By:Admin February 7, 2013

Help Us With the Final Funding of the Restoration


Show your support on Indiegogo

After almost two years and nearly twenty thousand dollars, we were in the homestretch of restoring the sign when we hit one more snag: the insurance company refused to pay on the sign’s policy, and we had to take them to court! After expenses, the settlement provided us about a quarter of what we expected. As a result, we decided to act on a suggestion made by many of the sign’s supporters, and create a “crowdfunding” campaign. If you like, you can show your support on Indiegogo. We also want to touch on a reasonable question gets asked a lot, which is why would we ask for help for a sign for a retail operation? Well, primarily because when the historic Beer Depot sign blew down in 2011, the cheaper, easier option was to simply replace it with a modern, less expensive one, but we felt obligated to preserve this local landmark. We honestly didn’t expect so many obstacles along the way, especially this last one with the insurance. We’re dedicated to getting this historic sign back up no matter what, but your support can help us here in the homestretch!

Posted By:Admin January 7, 2013

Nice Pole. So Where’s The Sign?

The latest snag? The insurance company tries to not pay on our policy!

Although the big black pole recently erected in front of the Beer Depot is a vast improvement over a nine-foot hole surrounded by caution tape, it’s not exactly the look we’re going for! So what’s the hitch on getting the sign up? Well, the short version is that as we headed into the homestretch – after the lengthy and costly process of filing the appeals needed to get the sign up in the first place – we hit another snag: the insurance company refused to pay anything on the policy! They tried to claim the sign just “fell over”, which – given the fact that the day the sign went down was one of the windiest on record – seemed to us a ludicrous claim. So we went to court. And “won”. If you call getting a third of your expected policy benefits (after legal and admin fees) a “victory”.

In spite of the fact that we could have avoided a lot of misery and expense by simply replacing the classic sign with a modern one that conforms to current code, we still have no regrets about the decision to preserve this iconic piece of Americana!

But after this latest “Ten Thousand Dollar Surprise”, we’re finally acting on a suggestion made by a number of customers and supporters, and launching a “crowdfunding” campaign. We’ve invested a lot of time and additional expense to do what we think is right for our community and its historic locations, now is YOUR chance to show some support if you like.

We’ll announce the fundraising campaign as soon as it’s live!

Posted By:Admin January 2, 2013

Yellow Tape, Red Tape, and…Kickstarter?


No, we didn’t change the store name to “Caution”, and that’s not the new sign!

If you live in Ann Arbor, you may have seen the recent piece on AnnArbor.com about the sign. We were glad to see there were only a few snarks and trolls; in general, the amount of local support for restoring the sign has been heartwarming. So now we’re in the homestretch, with only a few hurdles ahead. If you’ve driven by the store lately, we apologize for our appearances! No, we haven’t changed the store name to “CAUTION”, and that wire cage out front wrapped in warning tape is not the new sign. That was one of the first hurdles. You would think putting in a new sign foundation where one existed before would be a piece of cake, but the guys from JK Services of Dearborn Heights ran into some surprises as they jackhammered that 9 foot hole. No volcanic activity or oil, but even the city doesn’t have records on exactly what lies beneath a lot of downtown building sites, and apparently there were a lot more layers of different concrete and paving materials than you would imagine. They got the work done though, and that prepares us for the next hurdle – inspection. We don’t have a date as of this writing for when the site will be inspected and approved. Hopefully by then we’ll have word on whether or not insurance will cover the original damage, and if the stars align on all those issues, the restoration will be complete shortly thereafter.

And there’s the rub. The owners have faced considerable hardship by seeking to restore this classic sign. It would have been much cheaper, and much easier, to simply put up a new conforming sign. In spite of the naive observations of some AnnArbor.com commenters (more…)

Posted By:Admin October 5, 2012

The Sign Will Be Restored!

After a lengthy appeal process, we’re ecstatic to be able to tell you that the historic Beer Depot sign will be restored to its original Doo Wop Era glory! Many thanks to the folks at the Historic District Commission and in the City Planning Department for making what many would agree was the right decision. Restoration work has begun – thanks to JanSigns of Troy, Michigan – but will likely be a lengthy and expensive process. We’ll have more updates soon, including photos of the restoration work as it moves along. And we’ll probably be offering up some swag like T-Shirts to help raise some funds and raise awareness. Quite a few supporters of the sign have even suggested we do a Kickstarter campaign. What do YOU think?

Posted By:Admin August 20, 2012

Photo Gallery

For some background on why we’re sharing these photos of the Beer Depot sign, you might want to start here. But if there’s any question in one’s mind about whether or not the legendary Beer Depot sign is a landmark of historic interest, one only has to do a quick Google Image Search for “Ann Arbor Beer Depot”. You’ll not only find dozens of photos taken by people from all over the world (we’ve received feedback from Oregon, Texas, the UK, and Russia, for example), but you’ll also find a number of unauthorized uses of the sign for products ranging from iPad skins to drink coasters. We haven’t contacted those novelty product creators yet, but we did contact a number of individuals around the web to seek permission to share their photos. We’re still waiting to hear from a few people; if you have a photo to share, feel free to contact us and we’ll add it. The latest roundup of images is below. (more…)

Posted By:Admin September 27, 2011

Show Your Support

Before you do anything else, you might want to read the story of what happened to the Beer Depot sign, and why the city won’t let us restore it. If you’d like to show your support of our intention to restore the vintage Beer Depot sign, there are several things you can do. One is to simply leave a comment here sharing your thoughts. If you have a photo or other artwork featuring the sign, contact us, and we’ll tell you how to get a copy to us. We’ll be adding an image gallery soon. And we’ll also probably create a Facebook page, so stay tuned. We’re mostly trying to gauge public interest first. The appeal process with the city is a rather pricey pursuit, so we’re taking our time, and will base a final decision on public input.

Posted By:Admin September 7, 2011

What Happened?

In April of 2011, on a windy spring day, we heard a metallic thud outside the store. Thinking it may have been one of the many fender-benders that occur near our busy downtown location, we poked our heads outside to see if it was anything serious. Well, it was serious. Fortunately, no PEOPLE were hurt; the only injuries were to our baby, the landmark 1950′s vintage sign in front of the store. Unfortunately, the injuries were critical though. There was no way the sign was going back up without some serious restoration work. Fortunately, we have a great sign guy – Jim of JanSigns in Wayne, MI. He was confident he could repair enough of the sign that it would still legitimately be the vintage sign that it was. We gave the go ahead, and contacted the city to pull permits for the work. And that’s when the problems began. Although the sign is universally recognized as a vintage or historic landmark, in the eyes of the city and the local historic district, the sign falls into a conceptual no-man’s land. If we had wanted to tear it down earlier (which we never would have) you can be sure we would have been told we can’t, for historic reasons. But now that nature had done its work, since the sign was “out of code”, we couldn’t replace it. Learn what we’re doing to try to get the sign back up here. In the meantime, the damaged sign is safe in the able hands of the sign company.

Posted By:Admin

The Red Tape

If you’re not familiar with what happened to the landmark Beer Depot sign, find out here. So why isn’t the sign back up? Well, when the sign was blown down, our first plan was to create an authentic replica using as many of the original parts as possible. This simply would not fly with the city; it would be considered a “new” sign, even if it were exactly the same shape, dimensions, and colors, and used some of the original parts. When we told the sign company, they said “well, we can do a restoration, but it will be pretty expensive”. We ran this by the city, but the basic answer was still no, with one caveat: Planning Manager Wendy Rampson was kind enough to point out a possible angle. Although the reason the sign couldn’t go back up was that the sign didn’t meet the “height, size and setback requirements of Chapter 61, the City’s sign ordinance“, the ordinance also specifies that “no nonconforming sign shall be repaired or erected after being damaged if the repair or erection of the sign would cost more than 50 percent of the cost of an identical new sign.” This meant that if the cost of restoring the sign were less than half the cost of an all-new replacement, we could probably get approval. The problem? We probably could have fudged numbers, but lying is wrong, and any honest sign company will tell you that there was no way those numbers would work in our favor. So we got a “nay” from the city. On their behalf, they did this without making us jump through all the clerical hoops involved. The next step? The Sign Board of Appeals. More on that here if you’re interested.

Posted By:Admin

Should We Appeal?

So we want your opinion. The next step on our quest to get the historic neon Beer Depot sign back up was to go to the Sign Board of Appeals. We were informed by the city that there was a $500.00 filing fee, and that there were monthly board meetings at which the appeal could be filed. We planned to go ahead with this, until we discovered some of the fine print. You also need complete “signed & sealed” site and design plans, which means an architect and/or engineer needs to put their official stamp on the plans required. This meant that simply to file the appeal with no legal assistance would be over $2,000.00, and WITH legal counsel, easily $4,000.00 – $6,000.00. That’s a lot of money to lay out with the possibility of still being rejected. So we’re asking you, the people of Ann Arbor and beyond – what do you think? Is this sign a vital part of historic downtown Ann Arbor? Or should we say goodbye forever to this classic 50′s neon sign, and look to the future?

Posted By:Admin

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