BRATTLEBORO - On July 11, 2011, truck driver Richard J. Belt destroyed the Latchis Theatre's marquee when, frustrated with traffic at downtown Brattleboro's notorious "Malfunction Junction," he attempted to drive his truck underneath the historic theater's once eye-catching sign.
Nearly one year after the incident, the marquee is still out of commission, but Latchis Arts, which owns and operates the theater, announced recently that a new sign will be casting its glow on Main Street by September.
Just the same, many locals are wondering what took so long.
"Things just seemed to happen glacially," said Gail Nunziata, managing Director at Brattleboro Arts Initiative & Latchis Corp. "The issue was the sign ordinances. You have to get a permit from the town to hang a sign on a building, and the parameters are the size of your building in linear feet, and there are guidelines about how much square footage of signage you can then put in. We found out that marquees are sort of their own category. We all worked through it. It was all very bureaucratic and friendly."
Another factor that made the process take longer than some would have liked was the stringent regulations that come with a Vermont Economic Initiative Historic Preservation Grant. The regulations made replacing the marquee a bit more complicated.
"I had made inquiries to sign companies based on the insurance proceeds, and had made some decisions and was about to proceed, and then
One of the grant's regulations included a competitive bidding process for the contract to rebuild the marquee. Before news of the grant came, Nunziata was set on Elyria, Ohio-based Wagner Electric Sign Co., specialists in restoring old theater signage, for the job. The bidding process yielded the same results.
"We ended up with the same provider, except it just took longer to say yes to them," Nunziata said.
Wagner and Latchis Arts have worked together to ensure that the sign will be within preservation guidelines, but new to the marquee will be the ability to make letter changes from the ground level. There will also be more room for listings and new stainless steel borders will adorn the perimeter.
But what may stand out the most will be neon signs facing north and south will light up to spell "LATCHIS."
"There was a lot of back-and-forth, back-and-forth," said Nunizata. Finally, we got some drawings that I sent to Bob Stevens, our engineer, who said, 'Yes, this will hang on the building and it will do what it's supposed to do.' We're in the production schedule."