RICHMOND — Original neon signs from two well-known Virginia retailers have been restored to original working condition and are on display at the Valentine Richmond History Center. The exterior sign from the former Mill End Shop in Richmond ‘s Carytown and a mid-century A&N Store sign join the History Center’s extensive neon sign collection.
Upon its closure in late 1996, the Mill End Shop, purveyor of custom drapery and upholstery, saw its vertical sign donated to the History Center, where it was mounted outside the museum’s south entrance in a state of disrepair. In 2008, the History Center commissioned a complete overhaul of the sign, including replacing broken neon and transformers, removing rust, and restoring its original bright blue color. The Talley Sign Company, which manufactured the sign in the late 1950s, oversaw the recent restoration and re-installation.
Richmond-based retailer A&N grew from a small, 19th century dry goods store to a prosperous wartime army surplus supplier to a sporting goods institution, owned and operated throughout by the Sternheimer family. By 2007, 48 A&N stores were in operation, 12 of them in the Richmond area. The Sternheimers closed the entire chain in January 2008 and donated a mid-century A&N sign to the History Center. Designed in 1930, the 24-foot wide neon sign hung at a Culpeper A&N.
After its service in Culpeper, this particular sign was restored and hung in the company’s Sandston headquarters. Both signs are best visible from the History Center parking lot off of 10th Street between Marshall and Clay Streets in historic Court End. They join an extensive collection of local and regional neon signage from the Richmond community past and present, including the former Mosque, WTVR, Buster Brown and Thalhimer’s.