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Landmark sign saved from demolition

RACINE, Wis. (AP) — Thanks to a timely intervention by a collector of antique signs, a landmark sign in a southeast Wisconsin city won’t be demolished now that the store it has long adorned is closing.

Patrick DeGrave bought the sign from Nelson’s Variety Store in West Racine after it was taken down on June 12, The Journal Times reported.

“Early on, I’d go to my grandma’s house,” said DeGrave, who now lives in Waukesha. “She’d toss me a couple dollars and we’d go to the dime store. I have a lot of memories (of the store) from my childhood.”

Nelson’s closed this year. The building was bought by Jim Spangenberg, who had no interest in the sign.

The store’s previous owner, Jeff Nelson, received an offer of $200 for the sign, but it would have cost more than that to have it removed from the building.

DeGrave owns various vintage signs from Racine and Milwaukee. He said he offered nearly eight times more money than the next-highest bidder.

“I wanted a fair deal. I didn’t want Jeff getting raked over the coals on this,” DeGrave said. “I didn’t want to low ball him with $200 or $300. I let him know what I thought the sign was worth.”

DeGrave is keeping the sign in storage. He said he plans to restore it by replacing its wiring and glass, which is broken in places. DeGrave is looking for a house in Racine County and plans to put the sign on display wherever he ends up.

“I don’t think it would be right to sell this sign across the country, or even state,” he said. “Locally, there’s nothing that matches that sign.”

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