Friday, October 6, 2017

[Fading Advertisements] Forgotten Frisch's


Renovations rounding out the redevelopment of a downtown block bring some old signs back to life, each with their own unique story.





Sixth St. between the rails and roads of Main and Walnut Streets is an interesting collection of buildings in downtown Cincinnati. The western end of the block features modern construction and an upscale, popular restaurant known as Nada while the rest of the block still features its historic building stock. The high-end, critically acclaimed restaurants of Boca and Sotto are built into renovated, preserved structures along with local watering hole, Igby’s. On the block’s eastern end, a stone building rounds the corner, featuring subtle details carved into the facade which date back to 1920. There’s offices on the top floor, and a jeweler on the bottom which advertises diamonds and Rolexes in the windows. Nestled between the restaurants, retail, and bar sits two more buildings with a pair of dumpsters and a chain link fence in front of them. They’d been empty for awhile, the smell of urine occasionally wafting out of the nearby alleyways. These two historic buildings are in the process of  joining the structures around them, renovated into a better future. I walk this block all the time and as I went by yesterday morning, I noticed something interesting as the construction workers tossed debris out of the windows and into the dumpsters below: there was a sign.


This sign isn’t quite like all the hand painted, fading advertisements seen on this website and in the book, but it’s a “ghost sign” none the less. And a very interesting one at that. A beloved local restaurant and brand, there hasn’t been a Frisch’s Big Boy in Downtown Cincinnati for 13 years. The last one left in 2004 and I’m not sure if it was the one located here or not. The "retro" Frisch’s branding seen here appears a bit older than what the company has used in recent history. The oldest Google Street View photo shows an independent restaurant serving up breakfast (the “Rise and Shine Restaurant"), but the storefront has been mostly empty for the past several years.

Edit: This location was in fact the one that was open until 2004 according to this article.

- Google Street View circa 2007.


The two remaining buildings on the block are currently being renovated for residential use, but the bottom storefronts will be marketed as potential bar/restaurant space. Before the renovation, the Frisch’s sign was obscured by a blue awning. One seen here laying on the ground in rubble:


On the reverse side of the pale blue are the green and white stripes that used to represent the Frisch’s brand. The closed storefront next door was formerly a Benihana and then "Kiji," which by all accounts seemed to just be a Benihana without licensing the brand name.

When I went to edit these photos, I noticed yet another ghost sign. Looking closely, you can somewhat make out words above the Frisch's sign:


Looking at the entire frame and tracing the faded letters, you'll find:


Bolles Sporting Goods was indeed a previous occupant and this particular remnant isn't the only one on the building. Several stories up and facing the direction of traffic, you'll find another:


In the above image, look to the left and you'll see a former hand painted sign for Bolles. That sign is actually laid with another, one advertising Brendamour's Sporting Goods. The two athletic outfitters were born out of partnership, then split, and then later rejoined via an acquisition of one over the other, Brendamour's emerging the winner. While that sign and story are covered with more detail along other fading ads in the book, the Frisch's and Bolles signs above the entrance had been hiding beneath an awning this whole time.

The local sporting goods sellers completely went out of business in 1997 and I'm not entirely sure when exactly they left the location on Sixth St which dates back to the 1920's. What started originally as a motorcycle shop and even once had a gun range in the basement, the Bolles/Brendamour's store was once a downtown staple. I'd love to nail down a timeline and see if Frisch's came during or after Bolles/Brendamours occupancy of the building. It'd also be interesting to know if it was a full fledged "Big Boy" restaurant (delicious breakfast buffet and all) or just a "coffee shop" concept as the name implies.

If these old signs weren't enough for one building, there's still one more...


In case you can't quite make that out, here's a bit of what it says:


Unlike the Frisch's and Bolles signs, this one isn't nearly as clear aside from "The Cincinnati." The rest of the markings, highlighted in red, aren't particularly forthcoming:


Any guesses as to what came after "The Cincinnati?" How about an idea of when that Frisch's sign dates back to? If you've got an idea, I'd love to hear it. Shoot me an email or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Edit: It seems probably that this sign may be referencing the Cincinnati Artistic Ironworks Manufacturing Co., but no one's come up with a definitive address for the company being at 6th St.

As other buildings on this block have been renovated, their fading advertisements have been kept. It'd be easy for the joint Bolles/Brendamour sign to stick around up to for years to come, but it'll be interesting to see what becomes of the Frisch's sign.

Donation to the local American Sign Museum?

Adorning the walls of a new coffee shop/restaurant to open in this space?

Maybe it can be repurposed into the next downtown Frisch's? The company is slated to open up a new Big Boy in early 2018, the first in over a decade and just a few blocks from where this sign was found.

22 comments:

  1. Yes, that was a Frisch's at least through the 80's and early 90's. Served full lunch menu; not sure about breakfast.

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    1. Yes. My co-workers & I used to have lunch there quite a bit. Breakfast was also served, but I don't recall them being open late hours.

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    2. Thanks Chris and Paula, good to know! Even a lot of downtown businesses to this day still don’t have good evening hours. I wonder if the new Frisch’s will.

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  2. I believe there was a McDonald's in that block at one time, too. For some reason I want to say one of these buildings was named the USF&G building. Cinti. Bell had office space in there for some of their business technicians in the lat 70s.

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    1. I believe the McDonalds was actually a block over at Walnut/6th where the Contemporary Arts Center is now.

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  3. The letters could be spelling the "Cincinnati A-E & ? Iron Wks Co." In one of the early directories there is listed a "Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron works, Electrical Fixtures Mfgs.". -Brian

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    1. Looks like that may have been it, but can't seem to nail down an address for them...

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  4. What if it’s not a location at all but rather a hallmark or signature on the building where the decorative ironworks were installed?

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    1. Very well could be, this is a good theory.

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    2. I also believe that is welded into the iron by the iron company. Maybe "The Cincinnati Archit Iron Wks Co."

      https://hiveminer.com/Tags/cincinnati%2Ciron

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    3. I think you’re right, Mark.

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  5. There's a new Frisch's opening in Carew Tower. They should really use that signage.

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  6. 2004 sounds like about when that Big Boy closed. The Rise and Shine Restaurant literally had something on the menu that was described as "Pork Fuzz". The chef/cook came out to talk to me because I was the first person to order that menu item.

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    1. Wait... so what exactly was it/was it any good?

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  7. I used to eat at that Frischs all tge time when I worked Downtown in the late 80's and early 90's. It had a real diner vibe going on.

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    1. Did it seem like a full fledged Frisch’s or was it more like a “coffee shop” as the sign proclaimed?

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  8. All Frisch's, except the Mainliners, were "Coffee Shops". The coffee shops had more of a laid back vibe, with an open kitchen, and counter seating with a view of the kitchen and serving area, and those round stools with no back affixed to the ground. The one pictured definitely served breakfast, and had a salad bar in the back room (along with more formal booth seating). However I think the breakfast bar is a newer thing. There was a Frisch's where Jeff Ruby's is now (7th & Vine), and one on 4th and Walnut, where The Squirrel (formerly Red Squirrel) is now. Those are the ones I remember. See you soon at The BayHorse!!

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    1. Susan!

      This is so good to know, I never knew there was a difference between Mainliners/Coffee Shops. Come to think of it, is the existing Frisch's Mianliner any different than the others? Can't say I'm well aware as I'm not really a fan of Frisch's at all. It'll be interesting to see what the new downtown one is like.

      Truth be told, we need a 24 hr coffee shop/diner in the city and Frisch's most definitely won't be that.

      See you at the horse!

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    2. I am a huge Frisch's fan. I grew up with it. My Mom and Dad went to them when they were "drive-ins", kind of like Sonic nowadays. That was where the teenagers hung out in the 1950's-60's in Cincinnati. There were Mainliners. I believe that Fairfax was Mainliner #1, and Mainliner #2 was on Reading Road in Roselawn. I think there might have been others, numbered accordingly. The "coffee shops" were the ones without the "drive-in". There was a coffee shop on Reading Road near what is now Martin Luther King that had some great architecture. It was only torn down a few years ago, although it was not inhabited for decades. I would like to find a picture, and will try.

      And, yes, Cincinnati needs more 24/7 places. I have stories about some that Cincinnati used to have.

      Hope to see you soon!!

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    3. Trying to look up Frisch's history, Central Parkway was another Mainliner. I am having a hard time with the time line of which came first. LOL!! It stands to reason that Fairfax was the first Mainliner, since it is named after a plane, and its proximity to Lunken Airport.
      https://www.frischs.com/our-story/history/

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    4. http://www.city-data.com/forum/attachments/cincinnati/35783d1234146097-mid-century-reading-road-unknown.jpg



      I hope you can click on the link. Reading Road Frisch's Coffee Shop.

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    5. Susan! This is awesome info and that photograph is great. Too bad that's demolished, I love the old "star" look.

      So were the "mainliners" drive-ins or sit down places? If I understand correctly... mainliners were drive-ins, coffee shops were their own thing. When did they start becoming normal, sit down places?

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