Miami-Dade County

Allen’s Drugs owner says missing neon sign safe, but fate is unclear

Allen’s Drugs building on Southwest corner of the intersection of Red Road and Bird Road on March 15, 2016.
Allen’s Drugs building on Southwest corner of the intersection of Red Road and Bird Road on March 15, 2016.

The owner of the missing Allen’s Drugs sign, which abruptly disappeared earlier this year from its decades-old perch on a prominent suburban corner, has finally revealed its whereabouts — and the good news is, it’s safe. But the rest of the news is not all that encouraging for the legions of Miamians who have lamented its loss.

Al Collazo, owner since 1984 of the pharmacy and medical-supply store that’s still open for business at the corner of Bird and Red roads, says the iconic sign — the centerpiece of which spells out “DRUGS” in big neon letters — is in storage while he and the building owner work out a new lease. The sign, which needs repair, had been removed while the building was painted, Collazo said Monday in his first interview on the subject.

The worrisome bit: Collazo added that if he and his landlord can’t reach an agreement and the business moves, the letters cannot go back up on the building under a state law that bars advertising drugs if there’s no pharmacy on the premises. Instead, he said it would be donated to an organization that could take proper care of it. The Allen’s name, though, would still go back on the building either way in an agreement with founder John Allen’s grandchildren and Collazo, who owns rights to it.

“I understand the historical significance of the signs,” he said, but stressed that his main concern is over the business, which also includes a popular diner, and its 15 workers. “Those signs are not going to be thrown out. But here’s more involved here. We and our employees — every cook, every waitress, every clerk, every pharmacist who ever came through here — made that sign.”

His assertion that state law would not allow the famous sign puzzled preservation officials gathered at the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Tallahassee over the weekend. Several attendees asked on the Miami Herald’s behalf said they were unfamiliar with any such provision.

State law allows signs to be designated as historic landmarks regardless of whether the businesses they advertise remain, they said. Numerous examples include the old Coppertone girl sign that once hung on a building in downtown Miami. It was designated by the city of Miami and later relocated to the Miami Modern historic district on Biscayne Boulevard.

In fact, Miami-Dade County’s historic preservation board has asked South Miami — the Allen’s building sits inside the city’s boundaries — to consider designating the sign as historic, but has received no response.

Some of the people who responded to a post by Collazo last week on the Allen’s Drug Store Facebook page pleaded for the sign to be put back up.

“Bring back the sign!! Stop changing things!!” pleade Mary Daes. “Too many of us love our Miami the way it was!! Let us all know if there’s anything we can do! Perhaps a rally in city hall?”

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