The owners of a historic pet shop marked a bittersweet goodbye to their business on Monday after returning two signs, including a 1958 hand-painted relic, to London's Covent Garden Market.
The two vintage signs from the Market Pet Shop in the 1955 edition of Covent Garden Market were saved when that building was demolished and rebuilt in 1998. This week, owners Steve and Margaret Gelinas returned the iconic pieces of history to their original home.
"It's kind of a bittersweet moment because I've been involved with the store since I was a kid," said Steve, who is retiring on Wednesday after 43 years at the pet shop.
"It's a real personal relationship that has been developed with myself, my wife and a lot of our customers."
In the late 1950s, Market Pet Shop founder Harvey Beaty commissioned a local advertising business to create a four-metre by one-metre sign that would hang over the entrance to the store. Painted by Londoner Gerry Warner, it was later altered to exclude Beaty’s name and add the word Market when the store’s longtime manager Jack Reaside took over in 1970.
“It’s a piece of art,” Gelinas said. “It's not just like a commercial sign that you see today. It's a hand-painted sign.”
Another sign was painted in the early 1970s to advertise the shop’s expanding product line.
Gelinas and his wife Margaret, who worked at the shop for more than 30 years before retiring two years ago, made sure to save the signs when the market was torn down in 1998 and rebuilt.
Along with the signs, the store moved across the road to King Street and later to the store’s present location in the Kilworth-Komoka area west of London.
“This whole week has been a little emotional for me,” said Margaret, noting they held a customer appreciation event on the weekend.
“We've had pictures from the late '50s all the way through (to the) process of getting to Komoka. A lot of our customers remembered us from downtown. We've been in this community for 17 years, so we know everybody.”
Steve noted that when he connected with Warner’s granddaughter, she had told him the two signs are likely the company’s only surviving signs that exist today.
He said he looks forward to seeing them back in their original location at the market.
"We actually have photos of me taking the sign down from the old Covent Garden Market prior to demolition," Gelinas said.
"It is a cool thing. The signs followed us around over the years. We'll definitely go to the market and take that photo opportunity."
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press