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Issue Date: September 2008

Seen and Heard

Andy Netzel
An 800-Pound steel hammer, which everyone seemed to love, won’t hang outside Sutton Hardware anymore.

The giant sign had been part of the 62-year-old Cleveland business from its start. But when co-owner Pete Burke began to prepare for his store’s recent move from St. Clair Avenue to Prospect Avenue, he was surprised to find the Midtown Cleveland planning board didn’t want him to hang the sign outside his new digs.

“I was told this was a historic district, and we don’t want it to look like the suburbs,” Burke recalls.

Suburbs? Remind us which ones have streets lined with giant steel hammers? Calling around the city, we found no one willing to take responsibility for the discouragement. Midtown Cleveland development corporation assistant director Jeff Pesler said Burke was mistaken about any opposition to moving the sign: “I think that would have been something we all would have loved to see.”

Robert Keiser, secretary of the city’s landmarks commission, noted that his department encourages businesses to keep nostalgic signs. Heck, he said there might have even been money available via a storefront renovation program to help defray the cost of moving it.

So what was the problem? According to Pesler, it was that Burke never submitted plans that included the sign as part of the hardware store’s new location to the Midtown Cleveland planning board.

Burke said he didn’t bother because it was made clear to him from the start that the sign wouldn’t be granted a zoning variance and he didn’t want a fight. He stifled a laugh when we told him of the outpouring of love for the old sign from the officials we talked to. The good news is, they’ll still be able to visit it.

“We’re going to try to take it and mount it inside the new store,” Burke said shortly before the move. “It’s kind of an icon to us.”

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