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[whitespace] Courtesy Chevrolet
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Courtesy Chevrolet
3030 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose

Towering at approximately 90 to 100 feet, the Courtesy Chevrolet sign is unrivaled by any other sign in the county. It acts as a visual compass that leads the masses to Westfield Shoppingtown Valley Fair, to the Century Theaters on Winchester Boulevard, to the Winchester Mystery House and to the now demolished Town and Country shopping center. Once the anchor of Stevens Creek, this prehistoric dinosaur, with its flashing white bow tie and intermittent "Courtesy" and "Chevrolet," will fall this August.

A San Jose institution since it opened in 1959, Courtesy Chevrolet will be razed to make room for Santana Row, a mixed-use development of residences and retail space that will boast high-end boutiques like St. John Knits, Acqua di Parma and the omnipresent Crate and Barrel. Courtesy owner Rebecca Roulette, who claims she can see the sign from her Los Gatos Hills home, is relocating the dealership to the recently closed Kiddie World store at the corner of San Tomas Expressway and Stevens Creek.

Salvaging the sign is not an option. The city of San Jose and General Motors both have laws that prohibit the sign from being altered or moved, even though the property has long since been grandfathered. General Motors, which owns the dealership, says that any alteration to the sign is a trademark infringement. Therefore, the new lot may bear only the current GM logo, a bow tie design without any text--including "Courtesy Chevrolet"--written inside.

Roulette, whose late husband, Tom, founded the business, says that maintenance of the sign was becoming more expensive. With nothing to protect the fluorescent tubes that lit the sign, it was exposed to all the elements, especially the rain. A singular downpour could wet a tube, shorting out parts of the sign and requiring the help of a crane operator, a several-thousand-dollar bang-up job.

"We're very sad about the sign, but there's nothing we can do," says Roulette. "I've been saying for years I could mount it on my property."

For those crazed with the idea of a Courtesy Chevrolet sign in their own front yard, give Roulette a call. The sign is for sale.

Old Signs: Silicon Valley's Disappearing Legacy

Sign Language: What historic signs say about our lives, and why action is needed to save the valley's scarce reminders of its commercial past.

Plaque Removal: Metro reporter Genevieve Roja takes a neon-lit journey in search of the valley's oldest and most intriguing signs.

Hand-Painted Wonders: Long before graffiti, brick buildings were a palette for sign painters. Today, they are endangered species.

Strokes of Genius: An interview with octogenarian sign-painter Rey Giese.

Telltale Signs: A close-up look at the Orchard Supply Hardware landmark sign.

Pooch Politics: Famed cartoonist takes doggie-head sign to heart.

Living Large: Giant roadside statues are often 'borrowed.'

Signs From the Underbelly: Columnist Eric Carlson offers a photographic tour of some of the most interesting signs in San Jose.

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From the April 26-May 2, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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