In mid-May, the historic neon sign over Hotpoint Emporium (HPE) flickered to life for the first time in 51 years. It was a triumphant moment for the artist co-op, which had spent the better half of the previous three months working to restore the landmark on State Street.
Member artist Kol Naylor had suggested HPE raise funds to restore the defunct sign. What followed is what founding director Ellen Blomgren describes as “the overwhelming support of the community through donations and cheerleading.” Between a GoFundMe page and generous landlord – who agreed to pay 50 percent of the total costs of the sign’s removal, restoration, and re-installation – the project quickly took off.
“After calling and investigating many sign companies throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we finally found Ray at Dion Signs,” says Kol, who spearheaded the effort. Ray and his two brothers own and operate their grandfather’s company, which specializes in everything from designing and engineering to installing and maintaining signs. And this wasn’t just any sign.
Hotpoint Appliances had made many neon signs, but State Street’s stood out with its vertical orientation and deco-style ornamentation. According to member artist Jen Charleson, who researched it extensively, only three such remain today: one in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; one in Titusville, Florida; and the one in Bristol.
“The other two signs had already been restored,” says Jen, “so we are very proud to have been part of the restoration of the third, and quite possibly the last, remaining sign of this style.”
But for HPE, the journey resulted in much more than the re-lighting of a decades-dark sign. Says Ellen, “The entire endeavor made us feel permanently connected to the culture and history of Bristol.”