CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Last month, someone stole the iconic "Polish Village" neon sign seen for decades perched on top of the Polish Village Restaurant and Bar in Slavic Village.
The sign's hand-painted dancers were framed by lights and the words "Polish Village." It was a beacon in the neighborhood.
"Somebody decided that they wanted to have this sign in order to scrap it," said Christopher Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development. The group is steering the neighborhood back to success.
The restaurant has been closed for a few years. Recently, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank foreclosed the property. During that process the sign was taken.
"This sign in a part of our heritage. There are few of these signs - particularly ones that go back many decades that were original neon signs - and certainly not ones that had that lasting power in the neighborhood," Alvarado said.
Whoever took the sign likely had help. It weighs several hundred pounds and was sawed from its metal bracket.
"Having grown up in the neighborhood and seeing it all the time and finding out that it was gone- thinking what could have happened to it was pretty devastating," said Marilyn Mosinski, director of business recruitment and development for Slavic Village Development.
The sign had deteriorated over the years, but Slavic Village Development was making restoration plans so it could be relocated to a prominent area.
"Polish Village Restaurant was definitely a neighborhood bar where people would come in and listen to polka music, grab a great kielbasa sandwich and a good shot and a beer," Mosinski said. "Putting it back up will help folks who have memories of that bar."
Alvarado said bringing the sign back to mint condition is also a tribute to the people who contributed to the neighborhood's success and to former Cleveland Municipal Housing Court Judge Ray Pianka who died this past January.
"These types of signs and this sign in particular was really important to the judge, because he was fighting every single day to restore our neighborhoods," Alvarado said.
Mosinski said a social media post and an article in a community newspaper likely shamed whoever took the sign into returning it. It was found at the very spot it was taken from.
Mosinski and Alvarado are looking forward to moving forward with restoration plans.
"Metal's resilient just like this neighborhood," Alvarado said.
Slavic Village Development has just begun a fundraising campaign to get the sign restored. The work will be done by a yet-to-be selected local artist. Those interested in learning more about the project or making a donation are encouraged to contact Slavic Village Development.