“This restoration has been more involved than we initially thought,” said Matt Jarka, the sign company's manager. “The entire bottom half of the steel frame was basically gone and had to be replaced with new steel.”
Postema crews came to Grand Haven in March and removed the landmark sign for restoration.
“The first day it was down, it was very eerie,” Gage service director John Menard said.
Menard noted that the large sign had been in place since 1965, but he is unsure of its origin or how it originally came to Grand Haven.
In March, the Grand Haven Planning Commission designated it as a landmark sign — enabling the owner to remove, repair and re-install the sign as long as it looked like the original.
“If it couldn’t look like 1965, then all bets were off,” Menard said.
Menard said the other option — had restoration of the sign not been feasible — was to get the standard General Motors Chevrolet dealership sign.
For those who are handling the restoration process, work is a big undertaking.
“The size is a little bit of a challenge, but we’re equipped to handle things of that size,” Jarka said.
Once the sign arrived in Grand Rapids, the steel frame was rebuilt and sandblasted, primed and painted to prevent further deterioration. All of the electrical components are being replaced to comply with current electrical standards.
“Some of the neon will be reused, but the majority will be manufactured new by Joe Bulthuis at Neon Leon of Comstock Park,” Jarka said. “There is over 1,200 feet of neon on the sign.”
Jarka noted the porcelain panels on the sign have also required a lot of work.
“We first cleaned the panels with a rust remover and an acid to remove the oxidation," he explained. "We then treated the panels with a rust converter and then started to put in new metal where needed. The panels will then get spot-painted where needed, and then all the panels will get a gloss clear coat of paint.”
The outside edge of the sign will have new stainless steel panels fabricated to replace the originals.