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Why is there a vintage neon sign on a busy Coquitlam highway?

For several decades, Coquitlam had a distinctive neon sign that dated back to the 1950s. Now the building that sported the sign has been sold.

A vintage mid-century neon sign visible from Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam could soon be on the move.

The sign advertising Martin's Furniture dates back to 1949 and is a perfect specimen of neon advertising.

According to a Vancouver artist who paints pictures of neon signs up and down the Pacific Coast, seeing such a sign on a Coquitlam highway was a surprise.

"That one really jumped out at me," said Jeff Wilson.

"I drove by it, and I thought, 'My goodness. What an absolute gem,'" Wilson recalled in a recent interview. 

Wilson said he doubled back, took a couple of photographs of the sign and then painted it.

The painting is currently for sale at the Kube Gallery.

"It’s one of these fabulous mid-century kind of signs that reminded me of a simpler time."

Whoever purchases the painting will have acquired some valuable Vancouver history as the sign is likely to be taken down.

The building recently sold and the owner has plans for the sign, according to the City of Coquitlam.

Andrew Merrill, the city's director of development services, told the Tri-City News that he contacted the building owner when he heard the building was up for sale.

"I asked about the sign and the owner said he had already arranged for someone to take it," Merrill told the Tri-City News.

While the sign is a local landmark, it was first erected in 1949 in Vancouver near the corner of Broadway and Commercial.

At the time, Mildred and Alfred Martin had started the furniture-making business; they specialized in building custom kitchen tables, chairs, stools and restaurant seating. 

Building recently sold

Their son, Randall, started with the company full time in 1973 and in 1999 moved the business to Coquitlam.

He and Angie Martin ran the business, along with their "key man" Doug Lindgren, according to the website

According to, the building, located at 816 Roderick St., sold for $3.43 million in mid-February after 39 days on the market.

It's not known what the new building owner plans to do with the building.

The property is designated Neighbourhood Centre in the Maillardville Neighbourhood Plan, which could enable a rezoning to C-5, up from C-2, for a higher-density mixed-use development.

However, according to Merrill, the site is too small to redevelop on its own and would need to be combined with the adjacent property to create a viable redevelopment site.

Still, many might have memories of the sign and the former business that was located there.

For example, the furniture was reportedly built so solidly that customers recalled that it was still in use in their grandparents' homes.

For artist Jeff Wilson, the Martin's Furniture sign is so nostalgic it should be preserved for the public — in paint at least.

"It’s got a lovely mid-century geometry, a mixture of white and red, and the overall mid-century [quality] is very distinctive," said Wilson.

"If you were going to make a sign you would make a sign like that."

Wilson has gone back to take a number of photos of the neon sign and plans to do more more paintings in the future.

The Martin's Furniture sign in Coquitlam is an example of the thousands that used to light up the night sky.

If you want to see more of the neon signs that used to be common in Vancouver's early days, visit an online exhibit called Neon Vancouver Ugly Vancouver.