The iconic Michelle sign — more than half a century old — will shine on N. Tejon Street again if Sara Kinney and Randel Castleberry have their way.
Kinney, CEO of Rim Technologies, and Castleberry, CEO of Aspen Logix, are taking a novel approach to preserving the sign, which has been dark for a decade. They’re inviting Springs residents and businesses to “buy” the neon lights and the 248 individual bulbs it needs to work again.
“We’re selling bulbs to get that sign lit back up, because I think it really speaks to the history of main street and the American dream,” Kinney said. “It’s $10 for a light bulb, and we’re going to be replacing them with eco-friendly LED bulbs that will still maintain the historic character of the sign.
“Neon sponsorships are $100,” she added, “and we have three sponsors so far at the neon level.”
After more than 50 years as a downtown landmark, Michelle Chocolatiers & Ice Cream closed its doors in 2007 due to unpaid taxes.
Kinney and Castleberry ended a decade of speculation over the future of Michelle’s in June, when they threw themselves into restoring and renovating the space, which had become a sentimental favorite for locals.
“We had people that came in the building and cried, they were so glad that it wasn’t going to be torn down,” Kinney recalled.
The Michelle’s building is now home to Rim Technologies, as well as to Michelle’s Makery — a community-facing space Kinney and Castleberry have launched to support startups, innovation, small businesses and workforce development.
Working with specialists from Berwick Electric, who have “done the archeological dig” on the sign, Kinney said they were able to see the sign alight — briefly — in the early hours of Nov. 27. The fundraiser aims to light it up for good.
For information on buying bulbs or neon sponsorships, call 719-332-0423.
Editor’s note: Read more about Michelle’s Makery, Rim Technologies and the future of the Michelle’s building in this week’s print edition of the Business Journal.