When Leroy and Forrest Raffel opened the doors to the first Arby’s in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964, the concept of the “Old West” was undeniable. Serving tender, thin-sliced Roast Beef sandwiches in a covered wagon-shaped restaurant, the Raffel brothers completed the look with a larger-than-life 10-gallon hat sign that was visible from miles away.
Shining bright in the night sky, 10-gallon hat signs around the country have become a tourism stop for traveling Arby’s fans and a landmark for many communities. That remains true in Phoenix, where the sign stands tall alongside the local Arby’s.
“People remember it,” Arby’s guest Steve Sykes said. “I’ve lived in Arizona all my life and it’s been here since they first built this Arby’s in 1972. I couldn’t imagine if it was gone.”
Neither could Jay Johnson, Vice President of FX4B, the Arby’s franchisee. After remodeling the interior of his restaurant in Phoenix, Jay weighed his options between restoring the sign or replacing it with a more current iteration. Nostalgia eventually won out and he worked with Steve and YESCO, a sign and lighting company, to restore all elements of the sign. He worked with Steve to recreate the sign’s original colors with a fresh coat of paint, replaced more than 500 incandescent light bulbs with LED lights and buffed the ceramic face of the sign to complete the renovation project.
Jay’s efforts will ensure the sign, which is now a historic landmark in the city of Phoenix, remains functional for years to come.
“We see so many guests stop and take their photo in front of the sign. People have a real connection to it,” Jay said. “Many of our guests remember what it was like growing up to see that bright sign lit up from miles away, and we wanted to keep that sentiment alive. At the end of the day, we knew that keeping this sign was the right decision.”