Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brand’s Wine & Liquors located on W.145th Street has been in business since the 1920s.

Moon Lee, the current owner, bought the store in 1980 from the original owner's grandson. When we interviewed Me. Lee in 2004 he told us that, "the big ‪#‎neon‬ marquee sign is from the 1950s and over the past few years, the City has been trying to get me to take the sign down because there is a new law that says that storefront signs can't stick out from the building more than 18 inches. But I don't want to take it down because I realize the historical importance of the sign.So I am fighting the City to keep it. This ‪#‎neonsign‬ is the last of its kind on the block. West 145th Street was once lined with old stores with big marquee's like this one, but little by little the City has forced the owners to remove the signs by giving us summonses and tickets.'

In late 2005, Moon Lee lost his battle with ‪#‎NYC‬ and was forced to remove the ‪#‎sign‬ and replace it with a new plastic flat version. He told us, "the City decided to fine me for the sign retroactively from the time I bought the store. The fine amounted to over $50,000 and I couldn’t afford that so I agreed to remove the ‪#‎signage‬. The removal of the sign was a kind of harbinger of the neighborhood changing. Down comes the past along with the entire character of the neighborhood and in comes ‪#‎gentrification‬. This area was once the outer rim of a ghetto area and now luxury condos are being built and rich people are moving in." ‪

Photo and full interview appear in our book, "Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York".

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