In the classic children's tale by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan is the boy who refuses to grow up. But until this summer, the metal sign bearing the character's likeness at a Midtown convenience store was showing its age.
For years, the Peter Pan sign at the corner of Belvedere and Poplar was so rusty that the words "Peter Pan's Pantry" were barely legible. Peter's feet had become an unintended target for cars backing out of the parking lot, leaving them crushed beyond recognition.
But thanks to the efforts of Memphis Heritage and the Frank Balton Sign Company, the sign has been fully restored and re-installed.
"This was something I'd wanted to do for a long time," says June West, executive director of Memphis Heritage. "I played a role in the Sputnik sign renovation at Joe's Liquor [next door to Peter Pan's Pantry], and I always thought we'd fix Peter next."
West contacted Chris Balton, vice president of the Frank Balton Sign Company, and he offered to repair and repaint the sign for free.
"We agreed to fix the sign because my dad remembers shopping there when he grew up on Stonewall. Now he's 80 years old," Balton says. "It's a piece of Memphis history."
Though West is unsure of the sign's age, she says the building at 1681 Poplar was constructed in 1962. Calls to Peter Pan's Pantry were not returned by press time.
Balton removed the mangled old sign, and then he and West tracked down an old photograph of the sign to use as a color guide. From that point, it took his staff about four months to hand-paint the sign.
"We restored the sign using the same shell, but we re-faced it with aluminum. The old one was sheet metal which rusts pretty badly," Balton says. "Then we hand-painted it like the original had been. These days, most signs are made with vinyl or digital images."