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Profile: Sunset Neon

The company recently moved to its largest facility yet, marking a return to Hamilton, where it was originally founded.

A reputation for project management
Carley credits winning the Sam’s job to Sunset’s well-established reputation, not only in terms of in-house engineering and glass bending for large signs, but also for dedicated project management.

“Our level of project management is what our clients love most about us,” he says. “It’s also important we now have a facility that can handle the magnitude of the project. This sign is huge!”

Tony Bianchi, account manager, is overseeing the project. He had 26 years’ experience in the sign industry when he joined Sunset in 2002 as a project manager. And as it happened, he would go on to do work for Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre just a few years later.

“That’s why they called me up with regard to the Sam’s sign about three-and-a-half years ago,” he explains. “I wrote up a feasibility report for them.”

The two neon discs of the Sam’s sign were originally wall-mounted in 1977 and 1987 and had deteriorated significantly by the time they were taken down
in 2008. The challenge for both Ryerson and the city of Toronto was to choose a new installation site that would provide a high level of visibility for
the historic artifact, comply with local bylaws and, from a structural engineering point of view, withstand the wind load.

“I got engineers involved and we came up with the idea for a louvered system that would allow the wind to pass right through the rebuilt sign,” says Bianchi. “The way this works, the background of the sign will look like a solid panel, but it isn’t. It’s a bit like a set of Venetian window blinds.”

After nearly 10 years in storage, the components of the Sam the Record Man sign are now being restored.

Ryerson has asked Sunset to preserve as much of the original sign as possible. Once Bianchi’s team checks the condition of all of the components now in storage, they will be able to determine more specifically which of them can be reused and which will need to be replicated.

Another reason Sunset is well-suited for the job is, unlike many other sign shops, it still has a neon department with a glass blower on staff. The family of Sam Sniderman—the Record Man himself—has insisted on maintaining neon illumination for the spinning discs, rather than switching to LEDs or another technology.

“There used to be lots of unique neon signs along Yonge Street,” says Bianchi, “but these days, we’ve had a hard time finding new neon components. Our supplier has had to source them from the U.S. for this project.”

Indeed, given this dearth of neon suppliers, Sunset will not only restore the Sam’s sign, but also blow glass for replacement parts for use 10 or 20 years in the future.

“We’ll create quite a few spare parts—including the transformers, neon and electrical components—and house them on-site,” Carley explains, “so when the time comes for servicing, they can all be easily accessed.”

At press time, Sunset’s team is meeting with city council to determine further logistics—such as the potential need to shut down a lane of Dundas Street during the work—and to acquire the necessary permits based on engineering drawings, with the installation tentatively scheduled for the fall.

“This project is a big highlight for us,” says Carley. “Tony was very persistent in pursuing it and did a great job.”

Placing a pylon sign at the Milton Centre for the Arts


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