15 May 2007

Non-News About Jade Mountain Sign

It was nice of the New York Times to show its concern in print about what will happen to the classic "Chow Mein" sign still hovering over the now-shuttered Jade Mountain on Second Avenue on Sunday. It would have been way cooler if the Paper of Record had actually dug up some news about the sign's fate.

As usual in these situations, the owners of the sign seem to have no sentimental feeling toward the neon artwork. I feel for the Chan family, which owned Jade Mountain and still owns the building it's in, and which suffered the great loss last fall with the death of the family patriarch. But could they not know what's going to happen to the sign? It's their sign. Surely, they have an idea if they want to sell it, preserve it, give it to a museum or just throw it out. All in all, a very frustrating article. Anyway, here it is, in all it's worthlessness:

For decades, they floated over Second Avenue near East 12th Street like twin stars guiding tipsy East Villagers home: “Jade Mountain” in glowing pink bamboo-style letters, and above it, in rosy neon, a smaller, two-sided sign bearing the words “Chow Mein.”

But these days, the name of the old-school chop suey house is obscured by a giant “For Lease” poster. Jade Mountain closed in February, five months after Reginald Chan, its 60-year-old owner, was hit by a truck and killed while making a delivery on a bicycle. As Mr. Chan’s family, which owns the building, looks for a new tenant, neighbors fear that the vintage neon signs, like the restaurant, will soon disappear.

Emily Rems, a 32-year-old magazine editor who lives on East 14th Street, is particularly fond of the Jade Mountain sign, and the buzzing sound it made when some of its letters started to dim. “It just seems like it’s been there forever and ever,” she said the other day, “and there’s something comforting about that.”

The chow mein sign captivates Ed Cahill, a 46-year-old actor and filmmaker. “It’s like something off a Hollywood lot,” Mr. Cahill said.

The restaurant, which opened in 1931, spoke to a bygone era, serving steaming plates of egg foo yong and moo goo gai pan until the day it closed. Last week, passers-by were still pressing their face to the glass as if willing it to reopen.

Mr. Chan’s 25-year-old son, Nick, who lives above Jade Mountain, does not know the history of the signs or what will become of them once the space is leased. “I don’t know who would have room for something like that,” he said.

But for Ms. Rems, who once kissed her boyfriend underneath the Jade Mountain sign, the image will always have a certain glow. “I thought it would be lucky,” she said. “Now I’ll have to do it one last time.”

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