Owners of Loeb Equipment & Appraisal Company Collect Signs of Past Businesses
By Julie Wernau, Tribune Reporter
Jim Newman started collecting signs from plant and company liquidations about 15 years ago. His son, Howard, has continued the tradition.
This year when the signs filled up the walls at Loeb Equipment & Appraisal Co., Newman began hanging them from the ceiling. "This is sort of my tombstone collection," he said.
A photo of Robert D. Newman, grandfather of Loeb President Howard Newman, sits
amid items packaged or made on machines they have sold.
A giant Yoo-hoo chocolate drink sign was retrieved from atop a four-story building in Florida. A keg-shaped cartoon character named Danger Ranger was plucked from a Miller beer plant. A factory sign taken from Unilever combines consumer advertising with admonishment to workers: "Wearing antiperspirant is a healthy habit. Working safely is too."
Some are from nearby plants.
An aluminum sign is from Jay's Foods, which filed for bankruptcy in October 2007 and closed its South Side plant that December after 80 years in Chicago.
A nameplate crowded among larger signs is from Heinemann's Bakeries, which opened in 1929 as a small retail bakery on the North Side and closed its doors in August 2005.
The signs are a sign of the times. As plants and shops close, jobs are lost. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1990 to 2008 the country shed about 24 percent of manufacturing jobs. In Illinois, the figures were slightly worse: 28 percent of manufacturing jobs were shed over the same period.
"Over the next 12 months, we may be shedding another 180,000 to 200,000 jobs. About 60,000 of those will be manufacturing jobs," said Geoffrey Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Newman expects to be adding local signs to his collection.
"There's a lot of signs out there from old Chicago businesses," Newman said. "Especially over the past year or so. We've liquidated some companies where the owner of the company was friends with my grandfather."