WEST ROGERS PARK — The iconic "Z" Frank Chevrolet sign towering over Western Avenue could be scrapped unless a savior comes forward to claim it, property owner Chuck Frank said Wednesday.
As crews demolished the former car dealership at 6016-60 N. Western Ave. this week, Frank said he's had no success in finding someone to remove and preserve the historic, retro-looking sign that represented his father's dealership for decades.
Frank, 62, told DNAinfo Chicago that anybody with the means and motivation to own the sign — which is about 50 feet tall — is "welcome to take it for free."
"The entire thing is being demolished," he said. "Unfortunately, the sign is going to be destroyed and scrapped. We had tried to find someone, but no one is willing to take it — it’s awful big."
Ben Woodard explains what the sign means to the neighborhood:
Frank's father, Zollie, founded the car dealership in 1936, but the family business moved out of the neighborhood in 2008, and it was sold off entirely soon after, Frank said.
After years of looking for a buyer for the property, he's found one in Bob Loquercio, owner of the 120-employee Chicago Northside Toyota on Broadway in Edgewater.
Loquercio said he is moving his business because of the CTA's plans to demolish a portion of his dealership there to make room for extensive Red Line construction planned for 2017.
Loquercio said Wednesday he has the property under contract, contingent on demolition and zoning changes he's seeking from the City Council to build a new three-story dealership there.
He said Toyota Motor Corp. prohibited him from incorporating the "Z" Frank sign into the building's design.
"It broke my heart when they told me I couldn't keep that sign," Loquercio said. "I would have loved to."
He remembered 40 years ago driving past the sign when it had been lit up with neon at night.
Inside his new dealership, he said, he intends to commemorate the Franks' history with a plaque and photo of the sign.
He said he also wanted to be a part of what he called a resurgence of an "automotive row" on Western Avenue.
Frank's dad founded the dealership at 6116 N. Western Ave. In the early 1970s, the Franks bought a Pontiac dealership — and the large sign — a block away. Then, in 1986, the family sold the Pontiac business and moved "Z" Frank Chevrolet to 6016-60 N. Western Ave. At the time, it was one of the biggest Chevy dealerships in the country.
The business thrived until tough times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2008, Frank sold the business, which by then was located at 5333 W. Irving Park Road, and "got out of the car dealership business," he said.
Frank said he wasn't sure when the iconic sign would be demolished, but the entire site should be leveled by the American Demolition Corp. sometime in January.
Juan Cordova, foreman for the demo company, said the sign would be one of the last things on the property to go.
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