The iconic neon sign resembling an old shoe, marking the entrance to Ralph Martin’s Shoe Repair, was sold in an online auction for $2,500. Early Wednesday morning, the sign was removed from its perch on the side of the building at 28 W. Winter Street.
Jeff Reinhard, the new owner of the antique sign, said it was in a weak moment that he purchased the sign. He said the sign got a lot of attention in the online auction.
“I loved the sign when I saw it online,” he said. “I love history, I love signs, I love advertising.”
“We are dealers in antiques and old things,” he said. “I love the history of not just the sign but what it represents.”
Reinhard said the more he read about the history of the sign it became more than just a sign. He said signs and artifacts tell the stories of the past.
“Old things have a story,” he said. “If they could only talk about where they have been or the hands they have been in.”
Reinhard said as learned more about the sign “it spoke to me.”
“I’m thinking this thing is coming down,” he said. ‘This guy is going out of business after 56-years, he’s some 80-years old and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Reinhard said that was what really motivated him to purchase the sign—wanting to be a part of the sign’s history.
Standing out in front of the old shop Reinhard watched the technicians from Litech Lighting Management Services cautiously remove his sign from its 56-year perch at 28 West Winters Street. Litech was contracted by the Federal Heath Company, a national sign fabricator with a shop in Delaware, to help extract the sign.
“The dicey thing about taking it down is the neon tubing,” he said. “I contacted Federal Heath where Kinsey (Irwin, Operations Manager,) walked me through the process.”
According to Irwin, Federal Heath is the oldest and largest national sign company headquartered outside of Dallas, Texas.
“My office is in Delaware on Pittsburgh Drive,” she said. “We have a huge manufacturing facility over there. We’ll do everything and anything related to do with signs.”
Keith Cobb, Litech, said he wasn’t nervous about removing the old sign but he could never really tell how well things were going to go until the sign was on the ground.
“It’s kind of hard to tell but it’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to tell until it’s loose. You don’t know because of the actual structural integrity. Sometimes you take things down and you’re like it’s amazing it stayed up there at all.”
Standing on the sidewalk in front of his father’s old shoe repair, Ralph Martin Jr. watched as the sign was unbolted from the building and lowered to the sidewalk.
Martin said he hadn’t lived in Delaware since 1979, but hearing that his father wasn’t doing well, he decided to move back.
“I went ahead, retired and came on back,” he said. “I grew up here. I went to Hayes and graduated in ‘79.”
After 50 years of doing business in downtown Delaware, Ralph Martin, the former owner of the shoe repair business, walked away from the shop on April 30 to take his first steps into retirement and to pursue his hobby of fishing. He began his shoe repair career in 1955 when he was 15-years-old and then in 1959, he was offered the chance to move to Delaware.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.