By Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
She’s worked every day of the week and every weekend. She has worked every holiday without fail. Since 1936, she has stood in front of our building, rain or shine, and greeted each guest, young and old from each state of the union and from nations around the world. She uses the same five words every day. Our guests take pictures of her nearly every day. My wife and I included her in our wedding photos. My niece thought enough of her to include her in her high school senior pictures.
She’s our iconic red, white and blue neon sign. Commissioned by our then President, Fred Zehnder in 1936, she was built by the Artkraft Sign Company of Lima, Ohio (interestingly, the founders of Artkraft Sign Company were preeminent sign designers in New York that were responsible for the annual New Year’s Eve ball-lowering in Times Square for almost a century). She was installed in the front of our flagship restaurant in September of 1936 and never moved. This September marked 80 years of remarkable service. Our business, our community and even a state highway just grew up around her. The first picture I have of her is a photo taken with four of our servers standing under her in July of 1937 – from left to right – Gladys Baum Rahtje, Lizzie Mueller Zeilinger, Irene Zeilinger and Dorothy Schaefer. The first neon sign in America was installed at a Packard dealership in 1923. While it is hard to find data on signs that have been in continuous operation, she must be one of the oldest continuously used neon signs in America, if not the world.
She seems to have always been there and hopefully always will. Wish her a Happy Birthday as you pass by.
Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth