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Grinn & Barrett Tattoo at 3021 Leavenworth St.(Photo by Micah Mertes/THE WORLD-HERALD)


Omaha's best business signs
By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer


Read more: The people who keep Omaha's classic neon signs shining

* * * * *

In the process of doing this story, I got to see a lot of great Omaha business signs. And I'm sure I've only seen a small percentage of them.

Let's start off by acknowledging this list is not comprehensive or definitive. This is all in my humble opinion.

If I missed a great one, please let me know in the comments section or send a message to micah.mertes@owh.com

One other thing ... In 2008, readers suggested to The World-Herald their favorite Omaha signs. I've included the list at the bottom of the story.



Best dentist's office sign that looks like it could be for a swanky, new nightclub: City View Dental at 1415 Harney St.


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Best sheet metal shop sign that looks like it could be for an indie music venue: Hempel Sheet Metal Works at 1255 S. 13th St.


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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Brooks


Best music venue sign for an actual music venue: Waiting Room at 6212 Maple St.


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Best stretch of great signs: Leavenworth Street

Drive on Leavenworth from about 30th to 50th, and you'll be see some of Omaha's oldest and most iconic signs. The Bronco's cowboy sign's been there since the early '60s.

La Casa Pizzaria's Peppi sign, which was declared a city landmark, was erected in 1957 and got a full restoration in 2008. The mandolin-playing mascot was the creation of La Casa founder Joe Patane.

The Charlie Graham sign, which has been there since 1969, got a full tune-up a few years back. At the time of the restoration, Charlie Graham owner Jim Champion told The World-Herald, "that sign defines us. It is us."

A relative new kid to the block is Grinn & Barrett Tattoo at 3021 Leavenworth St., which opened at that location in 2012 in an abandoned U.S. Post Office building. Grinn & Barrett's owner Jen Beirola and crew got their massive re-purposed neon sign from a salvage yard

"That's the perfect part of town for it," said Gabrielle Ryan, vice president of the sign-making company Signworks. "It looks like it was always there."


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Best classic sign not on Leavenworth: Piccolo Pete's

The 80-year-old business at 2202 S. 20th St. erected the neon piccolo player sign sometime in the early '60s. The piccolo player's been getting regular touch-ups since his full restoration.


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Best keeping-it-neon chain award: Baker's


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Best keeping-it-neon chain award runner-up: Max I. Walker Cleaners

The nearly 100-year-old business' classic signs in Dundee and Benson, as well as the one at 4602 Cuming St., are bright beauties.


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Best next generation of Omaha signage: North downtown

One of the hippest areas in Omaha has become a neon mecca in the last decade.


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Best sign that fought a tornado and lived: Wolf Bros. Western Store

The Wolf Bros. cowboy at 70th and Dodge Streets is almost 30 years old and stands about 50-feet-tall. The same year it was installed, it was almost wiped out by a tornado and later restored.


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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Brooks


Most gorgeous sign for a place where I don't know what they do there: Benson Masonic Temple at 5903 Maple St.


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Tiniest neon letters award: Rose Theater

Signworks' neon glass bender Karen Chaka made the neon letters for the sign. "The Rose was really hard," she said. "That's the smallest thing I ever made."


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Best sign we lost in the last several years: Lucky's

The terrific sign for Lucky's ten-O-one at 1001 Pacific St., which closed in 2008, was adapted from the previous restaurant name, Angie's. Before that, the location's name was Trentino's.


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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Brooks


Best sign we might lose: Louis

A Bucky's gas station is planned for the site of the old grocery store, which opened in 1957 at 5718 Northwest Radial. It closed last year. The Louis Bar & Grill closed this fall. The future of the sign is still in question.


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Best kind of a really cool sign when you think about it: Westgate Plaza

The sign, at 84th & Hascall Streets, is in the process of getting restored.


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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Brooks

Best unofficial "Welcome to Omaha" sign that's not neon but that's OK, just calm down: Sapp Bros. coffeepot

The Sapp Bros. coffeepot at I-80 and Highway 50 was converted from a 110-foot-tall water tower in 1971. “McDonald's has their arches,” Bill Sapp said in a World-Herald article. “Sapp Bros. has the coffee pot.”


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Reader suggestions of other great Omaha signs. This was a few years back. Give us some updated suggestions in the comments.

The Bohemian Cafe, 1406 S. 13th St.
"A reminder of old days and past traditions," wrote Bellevue's Chris Walla, speaking of the sign on the restaurant and the one in the parking lot across the street.

Russell Speeder's Express Car Wash, near 114th Street and West Center Road.
"Sign him up," joked Joe Keuter of Omaha, who enjoys the big man's "friendly wave."

Louis Market, 5718 Northwest Radial.
"Its 1960s Vegas-like image reminds me of a time when the great American automobile owned the road," said David Hawes of Omaha.

Max I. Walker, 46th and Cuming Streets.
This sign's fans include Rob Parolek, a member of 2020 Omaha, which helped the LaCasa sign on Leavenworth Street gain landmark status.

Mt. Fuji Inn, 7215 Blondo St.
Omaha's Mark Volenec likes both the sign and the family-run restaurant.

Zesto, 3901 S. 13th St.
"It's really in wonderfully bad taste, design-wise, but it really speaks of the period," said Bellevue's Hal Holoun.

The Valley sign in the town of Valley.
The purple with gold neon sign at the intersection of Spruce Street and Reichmuth Road has been up since 1954.

Access Elevator Sign, 48th Street and Saddle Creek Road.
One of the city's few rotating signs, it's been up since the early 1970s.

Big Fred's, 1101 S. 119th St.
Another rotating sign, Big Fred's, featuring pictures of founders Fred and Rose Bruning, has been up since the late 1960s.

Bushwacker's Saloon, 7401 Main St., Ralston.
A neon cowboy and bucking bronco top a marquee.

The Donut Stop, 1256 S. 13th St.
A tasty-looking doughnut marks the building.

Miller Electric Company, 25th Street and St. Mary's Avenue.
The neon sign has been at the location since 1952.

Color Photos/8
This yellow fellow greets customers at Russell Speeder's Express Car Wash, near 114th Street and West Center Road, and gives a friendly wave to passersby.

Contact the writer: Micah Mertes

micah.mertes@owh.com    |   402-444-3182    |  

Micah is an online editor for Omaha.com


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


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