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Thursday, February 21, 2013 / 9:21 AM

Sign of the Times: Anheuser-Busch's Jeff Pitts on the St. Louis Brewery's Iconic New Sign

Last night, Anheuser-Busch revealed a sign that the brewery is here to stay: a new sign that cost more than $500,000 to install and that replaces the iconic, 7-ton Budweiser sign added in the late 1970s. SLM spoke with Jeff Pitts (pictured), the St. Louis brewery's general manager and a longtime A-B employee, about the new addition. As Pitts said, "Even people who have not grown up around here know it as a landmark and part of our city’s history."

How long was the previous sign on the brewery?
About 33 years. It was installed in 1979, which was a year before I joined the company. Prior to that, there was an Anheuser-Busch neon sign on top of the building... Now we’ve replaced the sign with the same Budweiser lettering and same color—although now, with the new technology, this particular sign should be brighter and more brilliant than ever.

Why replace the sign now?
As the general manager, I don’t necessarily own the sign—our marketing guys and gals do—but I am the poor soul who has to keep it operating... During the past 30 years, the sign’s gotten weathered; in the last three or four years, we’ve had a devil of a time trying to keep it lit continuously without issue. We saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: replace the aging sign and implement new technology that will use 60 percent less electricity.

Will the difference be that noticeable?
The company that’s doing this has also done sign work for us in other parts of the country: If you’ve ever been to the new Busch stadium, the Budweiser sign at night is brilliantly red and bright. The old neon technology would light up pretty well, but it would give off a little bit of an orange hue, which is just the nature of neon. With this new technology, I’m betting that it’s going to be brighter and crisper and just a purer red. The casual observer may not notice it, but I think those that pay attention will see an improved glow.

Tell me about the old and new letters.
The old letters were made out of a painted carbon steel. The new letters are aluminum with an epoxy coat that will better withstand the elements; they are the exact same size, design, font. But you cannot tell them apart just by looking at them.

What will you do with the old letters?
It’s a little mysterious. We didn’t destroy them. There’s actually a blog or two out there trying to figure out how we should repurpose the letters. Our archives group and our experiential marketing folks are looking at how we can repurpose them. Maybe the “W” will show up [at Laumeier Sculpture Park]. Or maybe at our tourist center, we’ll have the “B” surrounded by a whole bunch of roses and landscaping. I don’t think there are any immediate plans, but we didn’t want to just take them down, cut them up, and scrap them... I’ve had some personal contact with citizens of St. Louis who are very passionate about repurposing those letters.


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