Cold beer, hot item: This iconic store's sign is stealing the show at a St. John's auction house

·3 min read
Christine Fitzpatrick, left, and her daughter Angie decided to auction off this sign in honour of their late husband and father, John Fitzpatrick. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)
Christine Fitzpatrick, left, and her daughter Angie decided to auction off this sign in honour of their late husband and father, John Fitzpatrick. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)

Three paintings from legendary artists hang on a wall at an auction house overlooking St. John's Harbour. The first is a David Blackwood, next is a piece from the recently deceased Christopher Pratt, and the third is a work from Don Wright.

Art enthusiasts and potential buyers linger on each as they pass by, but it's the piece hanging on the next wall over that they really stop to gawk at: a gigantic convenience store sign that says "Fitz's Cold Beer" in all capital letters.

The sign, and the story behind it, has been drawing record traffic to the auction house website, says the auction house's owner.

"The beer sign has 10 times as many clicks as any other piece in this sale," said Wayne Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Auction House.

"We've had vintage Harley Davidsons that have had worldwide appeal. We've had David Blackwood pieces that have reached almost $200,000 in returns. Nothing comes close to the number of people who have simply gone on the site to look at this sign."

The man, the beer, the legend

Fitz was a legend in the west end of St. John's. His real name was John Fitzpatrick, and he ran a store on Topsail Road for more than 40 years. He started working at what was called Brewer's Retail before taking it over and changing the name to Fitz's Cold Beer in the 1970s.

"People used to say they would go in there sad, or not feeling the best, or even depressed, and they would leave with a smile every time," said Angie Fitzpatrick, his daughter. "It was so many people's hangout spot. They would go in, listen to his jokes, talk about the hockey game or whatever else was going on. They always had a laugh."

John's wife, Christine, said regular customers would come from as far away as Torbay, driving past countless beer stores on their way to Topsail Road to buy beer from her husband.

Fitz's Cold Beer/Facebook
Fitz's Cold Beer/Facebook

After 46 years in business, John Fitzpatrick died of cancer on May 26, 2021. He was 66 years old. His family made the difficult decision to close down the store, saying it just wouldn't be the same without him there.

A little while after that, the sign had to come down off the building. Angie wanted to do something special with it to honour her father, and his loyal customers.

"We took it down and decided to put it up for auction and give all the proceeds to cancer care," she said.

Expecting a last-minute rush

Wayne Bartlett jumped at the chance to host the sign for the auction house's Unreserved Estate Art and Collectibles Session. The phone hasn't stopped ringing since.

"We've had more calls on this than anything else, and everyone has a story," he said. "This transcends just another sign on another long road. This was a place you'd go to have an experience. This was a fun place to visit. The service was one thing, the laughs were a whole other thing."

The highest bid was around $1,500 as of Monday morning. Bartlett expects a last-minute flurry to drive the price up before the auction closes at 8:30 p.m.

Whoever ends up with the winning bid — whether it's a philanthropist or a former customer — they're going home with more than just a sign.

"They're getting an iconic piece of St. John's, for sure," Angie said. "They're getting all those memories."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting