Ask Lee Bey: Sign remnant gives a glimpse of a neon-lit past

March 9, 2011

A reader email from someone named "Pat" (no last name):

At 46th and Ashland, next to the Dollar Tree store, there is a storefront with an old sign above that advertises Speed Queen and Crown appliances. The sign looks like its from the 1950s and I noticed it because you don't see stuff like this anymore around Chicago...Do you have any information on this sign and the store that was there?

Indeed, I do. The sign--and you can see it to the right in the photo above--is a remnant of the old Tasemkin Furniture Store that occupied the space and spot of the current Dollar Tree. Tasemkin boasted a massive, blinking neon marquee that advertised an array of old school, brand-name appliances: Zenith, Admiral, Amana and more. (Do these names mean anything anymore? Today, I bet they would generate about as much foot traffic as would a double feature starring John Agar and Faith Domergue.)

Anyway, to see what the Tasemkin sign looked like in its fully-lit magnificence, check out this screen grab from the 1980s (but set in the early 1960s) television show Crime Story. The "Tasemkin" name is right about where the Dollar Tree sign is now:

Tasemkin went out of business in the early 1990s, but for years, the sign--stripped of its neon tubing--hung around as best it could. I took these photos in 2006:

Got a question about a building or place (or sign!) in Chicago? Send it to me at lbey@wbez.org and I'll see if I can answer it.