Gage & Tollner’s new sign is up, February opening planned
The Arby’s sign is down, and backlit white slabs of acrylic holding black letters spelling out “Gage & Tollner” are now hung up above 372 Fulton St., ahead of the historic restaurant’s reopening.
The 21-foot-tall sign harkens back to the historic branding of the oyster and chophouse, known in its heyday for attracting the likes of Truman Capote and Mae West, as well as being the borough’s first farm-to-table restaurant under chef Edna Lewis.
Gage & Tollner was in business for 125 years before closing in 2004. “The sign means a big deal because it is the big sign that’s going to let everyone know that Gage & Tollner is being reopened,” said co-owner and chef Sohui Kim. “It’s like the bat signal.”
With expectations by the team to open in February, prospective staffers gripped their resumes on Tuesday and walked past green scaffolding outside for the third day of the new eatery’s open calls for hiring. Workers installing the sign hovered above them in a cherry picker.
The last Gage & Tollner sign to take up that space was installed at some point in the 20th century and used Tuscan style lettering, according to Hamish Smyth, a partner at Order, the firm that designed the new sign. After several configurations, Order settled on the white background with 9-inch black letters stacked vertically.
“The result is somewhat minimal and in the context of Fulton Street, which is not known for ‘quiet’ signs from a typographic point of view, the hope is this sign will stand out as a breath of fresh air and a new start for the famous restaurant,” Smyth said in an email.
When owners St. John Frizell, Ben Schneider and Kim purchased the space — which, after the restaurant’s closure, became a TGI Fridays, Arby’s and a discount clothing and jewelry story — they signed up for a unique opening that has had to straddle historic landmarking of the building’s exterior and interior.
Moves to renovate the space, like removing the fast food branding and installing the new sign, have to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Because the building is landmarked, the new sign had to be placed exactly in the spot of the old one.
“Now that it’s not being confused for an Arby’s anymore, it’s very exciting,” said Alex Pearson Looney, the restaurant’s public relations director. “We’re reinstating Gage & Tollner’s rightful place on Fulton Street.”
Construction scaffolding and installation of the sign have already brought about a steady stream of cocked heads and comments from passersby.
Looking up at the facade of the building, one man comments out loud while walking by, “Reopening Gage & Tollner, it’s great.”
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