CHICAGO (CBS) — Who would want a pair of 13-foot long, glowing neon red lips? For a Chicago entrepreneur, the famous Magikist sign is more than a piece of the city’s history, it’s an incubator for small business.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports Mike Perrone snagged the Magikist lips sign from a Santa Monica gallery for nearly $3,000, and spent another $1,000 hauling them to a buddy’s warehouse on the West Side.
He said the glowing red lips represented Chicago’s vitality and excitement when he drove into the city with his parents for the holidays. The signs were perched along the Kennedy, Edens, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan Expressways from the 1960s through 2004, when the last sign on the Kennedy was torn down.
A sign from the Magikist store on Cicero Avenue now belongs to Perrone. It’s not as big as the highway signs, but sill weighs in at half a ton, and measures 13 feet by 7 feet.
The sign he bought still has the original neon tubing, but it’s not connected.
He said he hasn’t yet figured out how much it would cost to revive and relight the lips, but he’d like to see it put back up as a signal of what can be accomplished by a small business in Chicago.
“Maybe it’s on a rooftop or a building with high visibility off the Kennedy, like I remember, or maybe it’s somewhere off the Blue Line for people back in the public domain,” he said.
He said, now that he’s an entrepreneur, the lips remind him how a carpet business was able to leverage itself into the city’s consciousness through prominent and pioneering advertising placement on local expressways.
Perrone said, these days, small businesses could never afford placement that Magikist Carpet once enjoyed, but he said the lips do show small business can succeed in the big city.