James Pierce is always noticing stuff as he passes through the city. Faded signs. Disused gas stations on the verge of demolition. The flotsam and jetsam of urbanism.
The former Moo & Oink store at 72nd and Stony Island Avenue caught his eye yesterday. When the four store local chain (originally named Calumet Meat Co) went out of business in 2011, much of the store's markings — including its near-legendary smiling pig's and cow's head cartoon signage — were painted over. But someone has pulled away playwood elements on the building's exterior, revealing an older set of previously hidden signage on the old store's first and second floors.
Pierce, of course, saw this Tuesday. And he pressed his buddy Mike Medina to take the above snapshot. There are redevelopment plans for the site, so the ghost signs might not be visible much longer. Pierce and I had an email chat about his find.
Q: Why was this signage important to note?
A: Businesses still create some fun and unique signs, [but] we don't see too many really creative, hand-painted new signs these days. I think everyone can appreciate a happy cow and happy pig smiling at them as they drive or walk by. I dig it more than the electronic, digital and LED signs that business owners get sold on today.
Q: So, these are self-hating animals?
A: There are or were a lot of ironies about the mascots smiling before their demise for your breakfast or barbecue. Devout vegetarians would appreciate that.
Q: The place had some memorable TV and radio commercials during the 1980s and 1990s, didn't it? Part of the Victory Auto Wreckers/Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet school of Chicago TV commercial infamy.
A: I am a Far South Sider...they had Moo & Oink south of us and we would laugh at the funny radio ads. I was not hip to the fantastic TV ads until I moved to Chicago in 1995.
Q: Any other impressions?
A: I didn't pick up on the old, neatly painted lettering and messages until I looked at Mike's photo later in the morning. Probably one of the neatest aspects of the old signs is obscured here by plywood (in the photo) not yet removed. It seems to say '6 Generations of Meatpackers' or some such. I wonder what the final count was?
The Moo & Oink name continues, under different ownership, in a line of meat sold by Best Chicago Meat Co.
And now a commercial: