Saving a classic 1950s Arby's sign


Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, this 1950s Arby's sign was an icon of suburban life (before suburbia meant the former farmlands 40 minutes out from downtown.) In fact, just seeing this photo makes me hanker for a Beef'n Cheddar and Potato Cake (More specifically, the 1970s versions of those items. No Horsey Sauce though.) Sadly, the classic sign is in jeopardy. The Finneytown location where the sign stands tall is closed for remodeling and rebranding and the sign is slated for demolition. Community calls to Arby's resulted in the company offering to donate the sign to Cincinnati's excellent American Sign Museum. Once it's disassembled though, the Sign Museum still needs financial help to transport, repair, and install the sign at its new home.

"Support to Save the Finneytown Arby's Sign Grows" (Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)


  1. I’m a big fan of that sign too. We still have an Arby’s using it here in Syracuse, NY! You Cincinnati folks are welcome to come visit if yours is taken away.

  2. There’s still one in Waterbury, Connecticut, as well. I don’t believe they have any plans to get rid of it, fortunately. 

    CT used to have a ton of 50s and 60s style signage all over the place up until maybe 10-15 years ago, the development boom killed most of them. Even the strip malls had these great entrance and exit neon signs

    They used to have green and purple neon(like the main sign in the background), and lit up from the inside. Thankfully, somene had the good sense to get a picture.

  3. I’ve been to Cincinnati half a dozen times and had no clue there was a sign museum there. I’m making a note of that as something to do the next time I’m there. I hope the Arby’s sign will be there in all its blinking awesomeness by that time.

    1. You mean the former Arby’s on Burnet? That’s my old neighborhood!  I was in town over the holidays and glad to see that more than a few landmarks remained, incl. the Arby’s sign.  The big “Fox Photo” neon fox was gone, though… (now a “Savers”) Also the smilin’ toilets at 5518 Burnet are gone.

    2. That’s a pretty awesome repurposing of that sign.  Many of the Pizza Hut Carryout locations in Los Angeles used to be Winchell’s Donuts.  The size of the joint was always about perfect, and they often came with a Hobart dough mixer as well.  You can identify these ones by the rounded triangular sign out front, though a rounded triangle isn’t a particularly unique or evocative shape for a donut parlor to use.  Not like a giant cowboy hat, anyway.

  4. I stopped going to Arby’s when they ended the “5 for $5” deal. When I was in school that was a week’s worth of lunches! I understand why they had to get rid of it, but it was still a bummer.

    I remember seeing one of those old signs somewhere in the Seattle when I lived in Everett, but that was 25 years ago now so I have no idea if it’s still there.

  5. I was looking at this picture thinking wow that sign looks just like the one down the road. Turn out it was the one down the road. Its weird seeing things near you on the webs

  6. I know of two in Michigan, there was a third but I have not been past it in a while so it’s anybody’s guess if it still exists.

  7. I can’t say enough good things about the American Sign Museum! Todd and his crew of dedicated folks and volunteers have done an incredible job in undertaking the process to create a tangible, historical record of signs & signmaking. I wish I still lived in the area, as they’ve moved to a new, larger location and I’ve heard it’s spectacular! If you’re within driving range of Cinci, it’s well worth your time to drive over, grab some Skyline Chili, and then go spend an afternoon or two (or more) visiting the museum. It’s a national treasure and it’s great to see it get some more exposure!!!

  8. I grew up down the road from a sign like that (Bloomington, IN) and I always thought (in my kid logic) that it was supposed to be a hot dog on the bottom and then I could never figure out what the top was supposed to be.  Mountains?    Just a background for the words?  I could not figure it out until one day it was like “oh! a cowboy hat….. why a cowboy hat??”

  9. We used to have one in Tucson, a couple blocks from our house. It or one like it was transplanted to the local county fairgrounds. 

  10. There’s one of those in Pomona, California too. I had no idea it was historic. 

    It was a fun treat to eat there as a kid, but to be honest I haven’t found their food very palatable for many years now. Not sure if that’s because the food changed or I did.

    1. Actually, if you are talking about the Arbys on Garey, it has closed and the sign is gone.

      Same for the (ex) Arbys in Azusa, sign and restaurant gone.

      Also a few old 60’s style Taco Bells are closing.

  11. They used to slice hunks of real roast beef to make their sandwiches in the 60-70’s.  Now its still okay, but a different process of roast beef.  Used to have one in Chicago Heights, Il.  The sign is history.

    1. Well, the Arby’s joints themselves aren’t as common as I’d like, but the one at 5920 Sunset Blvd at Tamarind in Hollywood still has its big hat sign.  And the restaurant itself seems pretty old.  It’s shaped like a Quonset hut on the inside (semicylindrical ceiling, anyway), and the drive-thru has an unusual layout.

  12. These are, apparently, still common. I drive by the one in Cudahy, WI (south of Milwaukee) on my way to and from work. Hank Aaron owns it.

  13. Not to make a big deal out of something that is not a big deal in the first place, but that sign is more than likely from the 70’s (if not, at least late 60’s) and is definitely not from the 50’s as Arby’s was not founded until 1964 with expansion happening to more remote areas like Finneytown in the 1970’s.

  14. There’s one of these in Kent, Ohio as well. Since we’re, y’know, listing and stuff.

  15. I’m from the other side of the world, and, well, if I saw that, I’d be inclined to believe it.

  16. Yeah, that’s more 70s, I think–the one in Chicago near the high school I went to had one. Even then, I knew that there was better roast beef to be had at a deli, but Arby’s was more convenient for lunch.  We’d try to gross each other out by claiming that one of the primary components of Horsey Sauce was horse semen, but then we’d eat it ourselves.

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