‘Skin in the game’ | Results of Neon Sign Repair at DavEd Jewelers in downtown Willoughby

After rusting and deteriorating over time, the 75-year-old outdoor sign for DavEd Jewelers has a new look. 

The fixture at 4137 Erie St. in Downtown Willoughby is the latest project undertaken by the Heart of Willoughby, a nonprofit organization that formed more than 40 years ago.

The nonprofit is a result of a number of community members and a council person who hired an architect when downtown Willoughby was struggling, said Greg Patt, president.

“He did a report on downtown and what you could do to restore, and it resulted in forming the historic district downtown,” he said.

In addition to restoring the sign’s original clock design, the work done by YESCO Sign & Lighting Service in Willoughby included the installation of a working clock mechanism, new paint, and upgrading the sign’s neon lighting.

“Neon is not allowed downtown, so you couldn’t put a new sign up that had neon on it,” Patt said. “It’s not historical, but this of course was grandfathered in.”

When looking at the old fixture, people can see the circle sign at the bottom with a diamond image on it and yet, a diamond was also on the upper part of the fixture, Patt said.

“We said something’s not right here,” he said. “So, we went and tried to get old pictures and weren’t able to get it. We asked the former owner’s daughter if she remembered. It looked like a clock was there, so we finally confirmed it with a real old painting an art teacher from Willoughby-Eastlake had done many years ago as a fundraiser.” 

The cost of the project was $8,500 — shared by DavEd Jewelers’ co-owners Tom Mirabelli and Steve Manno and building owner Robert Fiala, who is also Willoughby’s mayor. The project also included research into the sign’s history. 

“We are excited to be part of restoring a sign with a 75-year history to its original design,” Mirabelli said in a statement.

The sign was fabricated by Gruen Watch Co. of Cincinnati, now out of business, and installed shortly after the store opened in 1946 by original co-owners and business namesakes Dave Fertel and Edward Weyls.

“I contacted Fiala, and I talked to Steve and Tom,” Patt recalls. “I said ‘hey, we want to restore this sign. I got a price. You want to put some skin in the game here? And if you put some skin in the game, Heart of Willoughby will cover the rest.'”

Roughly 60% of the cost of the project came from Fiala and DavEd Jewelers’ co-owners, Patt said. The refurbished fixture is just the first of what Heart of Willoughby hopes will be many projects to bring a strong sense of historical renovation to downtown Willoughby, he said.

“I’m 68 and it’s been there for 75 years,” Patt said. “As a kid growing up, that was burned into my brain that that’s where DavEd Jewelers was. From a nostalgic standpoint, everybody loves it. This is a part of what (downtown Willoughby) is.” 

Heart of Willoughby operates the Saturday morning Willoughby Outdoor Market, running from May to October in the city hall parking lot. The organization uses the money generated by market space rentals to fund a variety of sustainable initiatives, including shoveling of downtown sidewalks in the winter and maintenance of the “Good Coffee Always” mural at Kleifeld’s Diner.

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