Vigil for Uptown Arby's and its iconic sign receives thousands of RSVPs

Though it might seem trivial to some, the thought of a neighborhood like Minneapolis' rapidly-developing Uptown losing another iconic landmark is enough to bring people from across the Twin Cities out to mourn the loss of what at least a few went so far as to call the area's "Statue of Liberty."

After an abrupt closure at the decades-old "island" Arby's at the corner of W. Lake Street and Emerson Ave. S last week, many people's thoughts turned to practical matters--namely, what happens to the vintage cowboy hat sign that many have come to know and love over the years? 

Even before the giant pile of metal and glass was loaded up on a flatbed and carted off, the company noted in a release that it was not "in the proper condition to salvage." Still, the site was quickly transformed into a makeshift memorial decorated with flowers and mementos. 

“Before smart phones and directions I’d tell my friends ‘Alright you exit on 31st, once you see the Uptown Arby’s take a right on Fremont, you’ll be at my apartment.’ You know what I mean?” Dana Wessel said.

Though he's been an Uptown resident for nearly 10 years, the GoMN radio host admitted sheepishly that he's only visited the Arby’s a handful of times. Regardless, he couldn’t be more disappointed to see the popular waypost go. 

“It’s kind of jarring and it’s kind of sad to see the old girl get torn down,” he said, and he certainly isn't alone.

Noah Hevey of Chanhassen couldn’t get on Amazon fast enough to buy candles after he got word the 47-year-old mainstay was in jeopardy. Then, he thought about doing something a little bigger.

“I saw that there was a vigil for a burned down Taco Bell not too long ago," he said. "So I just kind of came up with the idea, ‘Hey, a few of my friends would be down to do something weird like this.'"

Hevey set up a Facebook event for himself and a few friends called "Candlelight vigil for the Uptown Arby's sign," and scheduled it for Friday at 8 p.m. outside the now-closed restaurant. What he didn't expect was the overwhelming response, with more than 2,000 people saying they were interested in paying their respects. 

“I’d compare it to the Statue of Liberty of Uptown, except maybe more important, arguably,” Wessel joked. "Gone, but not forgotten," Hevey added.

Unfortunately for a few interested parties, Hevey said the sign was last spotted on a flatbed in pieces--a sure sign it isn’t going up for auction. It was a dream-shattering realization for some who may have been willing to part with large sums for a real piece of Minneapolis history (though, as city of Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill notes, the sign isn’t officially considered a historic landmark).

“I was preparing to make a very healthy offer, potentially risk my marriage over buying this sign," Wessel said. "I mean, it’s worth it, toeing a piece of history like that."