Traffic slowed along Pioneer Way as drivers craned their necks to observe the removal of the largest sign in Oak Harbor Wednesday.
A two-man crew from Meyer Sign and Advertising Company of Mount Vernon removed the iconic Frontier Chevrolet Pontiac sign, a downtown landmark since the 1970s when it was Boyer Chevrolet Pontiac.
The large, square “Chevrolet Pontiac” section came down first, then the rectangular “Frontier” sign, followed by two tall sign supports. The demolition culminated with the removal of the concrete pad with a backhoe.
“GM requires that it’s all removed, just like they didn’t exist,” said Rich Joneli of Meyer Sign.
The sign didn’t come down easily. At one point Brett Entrikin of Meyer Signs took a sledgehammer to break a welded segment free.
Joneli, who’s purchased two cars from the dealership, said it was hard to see it close.
“I think there’s probably more coming,” he said of the future closure of car lots. Oak Harbor’s Ford dealership had closed a couple of years earlier, leaving only a Chrysler dealer in the downtown area.
This is the first sign removal Joneli has worked on for a Chevrolet dealership, but he’s participated in the removal of other car lot signage. Since July he’s removed signs at Chrysler dealerships in Tacoma, Everett, Mt. Vernon and Bellingham.
Rick Rennebohm, a co-owner of the Frontier Chevrolet Pontiac for 14-years, bought out his business partner, Gary Funk, this April and now hopes to sell, lease or rent the building and lot.
He’s gotten a few phone calls about the property that’s listed with a commercial broker, but there’s nothing in writing, he said.
General Motors’ letter to Frontier Chevrolet in August notifying them to shut down still bothers Rennebohm.
“There was no rhyme or reason. No thank you, no goodbye,” he said. “I never thought I’d see this day.”
Funk is now the general manager at Whidbey Island Volkswagen Mazda on Highway 20.
He hasn’t heard any feedback about the removal of the longtime downtown Chevrolet sign yet, but expects he’ll hear about it.
“It was a landmark sign,” he said. “I’m sure that we’ll get some response.”