It all started with a sign from above.
A neon sign, that is.
When Crick Camera Shop (formerly 7715 State Line Rd.) closed in 2017 after 70 years in service, local Nick Vedros — a well-known commercial and art photographer — worried it was leaving behind more than just old gear.
The shop’s 12-ft-wide neon sign (pictured below) was for purchase ... Vedros decided to rescue it. “I said, if you donate it to me, I promise I’ll do something for the community.”
Rusted parts and flashing lights
That first sign sent Vedros down a well-lit rabbit hole. In the seven years since, the nonprofit rescue effort, originally founded as Save the KC Neon Inc., has transformed from a one man team to a board of 21 that has recovered 88 signs and restored 51.
The signs are bought on online auction sites, donated by families who no longer have space, or sourced on rides around the city.
Some just wait for the perfect moment... like the “A” from the old Stuart Hall building. In the early 90s, Hallmark Cards lettering artist Jerry Lobato looked out from his office window and noticed the classic sign being dismantled. After racing across the street and up to the roof, he paid the workman for one of the letters — a beautiful serif-font “A” that has since been donated to the Lumi collection.
Enlightening Kansas City
With help from donors, restoration shops, neon benders, business leaders and other local community members — these colorful markers from Kansas City’s past will be on display this summer.
The Lumi Neon Museum will have its public debut with an open-air alley and indoor space at the new Pennway Point entertainment district, showcasing anywhere from 75 to 100+ signs at one time. Each will have a didactic sharing the commercial + artistic history of the piece and those who helped make it happen.