With the plant’s final move less than one month away, Beech-Nut’s Swiss parent, Hero Group, is still unsure of its plans for the familiar sign that sits on top of the 300,000-square-foot warehouse in Canajoharie.
Beech-Nut spokesman Earl Wells said the company has been busy over the last several months transitioning operations to the new infant food manufacturing facility in the town of Florida.
“While we realize there is interest in the community about the sign that currently sits atop the facility in Canajoharie, the company has not made any determination about what will be done with the sign,” he said.
Residents expressed mixed feelings about the sign. Some believe the sign should be taken to the new facility, while others think the sign is a landmark for the community and should remain on the warehouse or somehow be preserved.
Sherene Peruzzi, co-owner of Peruzzi’s Meat Market on Church Street, said the sign should leave with the brand.
“They moved. You can’t advertise something that’s not here anymore,” she said.
Others are more sentimental because the sign is part of the village’s history.
“If [a new company using the warehouse] wants to put up a sign, that’s fine, but the old sign needs to stay,” Hazel Hyney, owner of the Village Restaurant, said. “Everything else has been taken from us.”
The company was founded in 1891 by Raymond and Walter Lipe, John and David Zieley, and Bartlett Arkell, who sold cured hams under the name Imperial Packing Co.
In 1898, the company was renamed the Beech-Nut Packing Co. to sound more American, and it soon began selling bacon in a jar.
However, the Beech-Nut trademark wasn’t registered until 1912, according to the Arkell Museum.
Between then and 1915, the company had built a brand new facility with the first large sign on top reading, “Beech-Nut Bacon Plant.”
The Bacon Plant portion of the sign was removed when the company steered away from bacon and focused on chewing gum and baby food in the 1920s and ’30s.
The sign’s design changed several times over the years, but dates were rarely kept of when portions of the sign were added or taken down because the company changed hands so many times.
Beech-Nut was purchased by Lifesavers Corp. in 1956, a pharmaceutical company in 1968 and Nestlé in 1979.
In 1982, the company changed its name to the Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp.
At some point, light bulbs were added to the sign and the words “coffee,” “gum” and “baby food” would flash alternately. Eventually all portions of the sign were removed except for the “Beech-Nut” part, and Village Court Judge Francis Avery believes the sign went dark in the ’80s.
The brand was purchased by Hero Group in 2005.
Arkell Museum Curator Diane Forsberg said a constant of the sign has always been its font. No matter who owned the Beech-Nut brand, the sign’s style was always maintained. She said the Arkell Museum sign is meant to echo that of Beech-Nut.
Mayor Leigh Fuller would like to see the sign preserved but does not want it on the facility with Beech-Nut no longer in the village.
Avery said for the sign to be saved, someone would have to come up with the money to restore it and remove it from the building. Then, he couldn’t imagine what could be done with it because of its size.
“If the sign remains on the building, any new owners would want to put their money into the plant, not a souvenir of the past,” he said. “The sign is really a secondary priority.”
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Categories: Schenectady County