The BIG Neon Cowboy Hat

The Original Neon Cowboy Hat Sign

I’ve always had a soft spot for Arby’s.  My mother worked at an Arby’s in Norfolk, VA from 1978-1983.  Give me a regular roast beef sandwich (or perhaps a beef ‘n cheddar) an order of potato cakes and a jamocha shake, and I’m good to go!  But in all honesty,what I really have a soft spot for, is the old Arby’s neon cowboy hat sign.

On Friday night, my wife and I were on the road from Tennessee to Ohio and we decided to stop at an Arby’s in Cincinnati for a quick bite.  Since we needed to make a pit stop, we decided to eat inside.  And as I ate my roast beef sandwich I thought about my mother’s old store on Virginia Beach Blvd (near both the Military Circle Mall and Janaf Shopping Center) and that big neon cowboy hat.

Sure, I still eat at Arby’s every now and then, but something is missing.  You can still get their famous roast beef sandwiches, beef ‘n cheddar sandwiches, potato cakes and jamocha shakes, but at most stores that big ole ugly (to some) sign is long gone.   Today it’s been updated to a more modern version of the famed Arby’s cowboy hat.

Today's Arby's Cowboy Hat

In today’s retail world big gawdy neon signs are rarely permitted.  In fact, due to sign ordinances in most communities, classic signs like the Arby’s neon cowboy hat would never be allowed.  They are truly a relic of the past.  To many they’re an eyesore, but to me they’ve always been a work of art.

When I got home, I did some quick research about Arby’s and found out that they got their start back in 1964 in of all places, Youngstown, OH (or technically in Boardman, a Youngstown suburb).  For years, my wife and I have had this theory about Northeast Ohio being the center of the universe, and this just goes further to fuel that theory.

The founders of Arby’s originally wanted to call their restaurant Big Tex, but unfortunately that name was being used by a business in nearby Akron.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the big neon hat sign was originally designed with Big Tex name in mind rather than the Arby’s.

While many of those big bright neon signs are long gone, you can still actually find quite a few in use today as a beacon for delicious fast food roast beef.  Oh, and while tracking down information on the history of that  Arby’s neon cowboy hat, I learned something else.  My mom’s Arby’s is sadly long gone having been replaced by an auto loans store…. that still uses the shell of that old neon cowboy hat.

Fomerly an Arby's Neon Sign

I don’t know about you, but somehow it’s not quite the same!