It was about a year ago that Screen Novelties, an animation firm, moved into a brick building in the Historic Filipinotown section of Echo Park. The firm’s new home at Temple Street and Belmont Avenue came with high ceilings, historic character and a 14-foot high old sign featuring a giraffe and the word “DELI” at the bottom. Screen Novelties has nothing to do with giraffes or the deli business. Most new tenants would have probably slapped their own logo or name across the sign. Not Screen Novelties. “It’s way cool,” said Mark Caballero, one of the proprietors of the firm.
Instead, Caballero and his partners wanted to restore the sign. About two weeks ago, the firm flipped the switch on the gold neon sign that includes a X-ray-like view of the giraffe’s neck and the words Hi-Fi, an abbreviation for Historic Filipinotown.
Other, old commercial signs have not been so lucky as the gold giraffe. Across the street, for example, a giant saw that once hung from the side of a hardware store was removed and stored in an adjacent lot when the building became a showroom for a flooring company. When Caballero inquired about the sign, he was told by neighbors that it has been stolen.
Caballero said the firm had intended to keep and restore the sign. In fact, he and business partner Chris Finnegan had referred to their future home as the “Giraffe Building” when driving by it on trips to downtown. Once an upcoming Sponge Bob Square Pants holiday special was out of the way, the firm focused on its sign.
The Museum of Neon Art was consulted on the restoration, which tried to keep as much of the old sign as possible. In addition to the giraffe X-ray, which was installed in a pre-existing box on the sign, the refurbished sign also includes a sparking blue eye to break up the gold neon . “We thought it would be fun to put something silly up there,” Caballero said of the X-ray.
The gold giraffe is definitely an eye catcher, especially at night with its gold neon shining bright. In fact, one man who walked under it late last week gave it the ultimate compliment. He said a photo of the gold giraffe served as his phone’s screen saver.
After consulting with the neighbors, Caballero said the firm decided to include “Hi-Fi” in the sign. “We wanted to give back to the neighborhood,” he said.