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Monday, April 14, 2014
Around The Eastsider:

How do you know you’re in Historic Filipinotown? Look for the neon giraffe

Photo courtesy Mark Caballero

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.

Neon giraffe gets X-ray installed. Photo courtesy Mark Caballero

28 comments

  1. How wonderful that they took such care, consideration and creativity in doing this. Bravo!

  2. coolest story of the day! it looks incredible!

  3. This is a great little article….would like to hear and read more of these positive stories about the nabe. I applaud the great efforts of the new tenants! This is a beautiful old building and happy to see it restored nicely with such great care. With tribal cafe across the way and the new BBQ place down the street, this part of Temple seems to be shaping up nicely. Beautiful Sign!!!

  4. I used to know I was in HiFi when I would see this: http://tinyurl.com/chf6jma

  5. Actually , the Liquor Store was called “Big Top Liquor”

  6. Big Top Liquor Store. Many memories come to mind. I’ll always remember Vicente running the liquor store. Who remembers Taylor Pharmacy, now is an ugly unfinished empty lot.

  7. Kudos to Screen Novelties for the preservation and great restoration of such a fun part of history.

  8. SO awesome to see this realized! After Eastsider LA’s first story last year on the company moving in and thinking about the sign’s restoration, I emailed Screen Novelties and suggested they have the owners of the building contact the Museum of Neon Art (www.neonmona.org). Glad to see that connection was made and helped facilitate the sign’s renewal.

  9. Yeah for restoring neon signs!

  10. Beautiful work! I’d only seen it in the daytime so I was unaware of the additional neon awesomeness! The x-ray is a nice whimsical touch.

  11. I’m jealous. I always loved that sign. Good job!

  12. Love neon signs. Great job. Thanks for bringing the new in but keeping the character of the neighborhood, LA needs more thoughtful people like you. cheers!

  13. Nine Double Oh 2 Sixxxer

    It’s gir-reat!

  14. I am 60 years old now. When I was a child, the store with the Giraffe was called the Big Top. The owner, Jim and his partner, Bill, watched me grow up. Jim stopped a gang of girls that wanted to beat me up with I was 12. I was doing laundry next door at the laundromat. They were such nice but bottom line guys. I am so glad they preserved the giraffe, even though now you can see his bones. LOL I lived just 5 minutes from there.

    • Then you might also remember BCD Market with Larry, Bruce, and Mr Lee. If my memory is correct, at the same building where Screen Novelities is now, Upstairs were medical offices, I remember a dentist there. On the bottom was Elena’s or Helen’s Beauty Salon.

      • BCD market! loved that place. i went to Our Lady of Loretto Elem. just up the street on Union. My friends and I would go faithfully to BCD market to buy the newest marvel comics for 10 cents; Spiderman, Thor, Captain America, and the rest.

  15. welcome to the BIG TOP ls

  16. Thank you Screen Novelties, for taking such beautiful care of this sign. One of my favorite things on Temple! Much appreciated…

  17. I Brake for LA Natives

    Two Thumbs UP ! Good Job.

  18. It’s too bad about the saw. I have some photographs of it; perhaps they can make a new one to match.

  19. We just saw it lit up about a week ago and were so happy–excellent job.

  20. Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier
    July 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I remember that dentist! He was a wonderful man. I think his name was Dr. Johnson. He was African-American, unusual for a non-white to be a dentist in the 1940s. I went to him when I was about 8 years old with a mouthful of trouble. I gave him my baby sitting money (maybe $3.00) and he performed work on me that today would cost at least $200.00. He never, in any way, indicated that my $3.00 contribution was anything but top notch. I left there looking a lot better and feeling very proud. The fountain in the drug store downstairs was another place I would spend my baby sitting money: A chocolate sunday with lots of whipped cream (it was made from real cream). Nothing but good energy circulating over the decades in that grand old building. Congratulations for feeling it! Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier (Temple and & Westlake)

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