DeKALB – The lights for the new marquee sign at the Debutantes School of Cosmetology and Nail Technology almost didn’t turn on.
It took three failed countdowns from 10 before the sparkling neon lights lit up the street and the crowd of DeKalb-area residents and city officials who gathered Thursday outside the beauty salon at 145 N. Third St. to commemorate the restoration of the marquee sign.
Becky Rogers, one of the owners of Debutantes, was more than happy to see them finally turn on.
“Another applause if that was worth the wait, because that was pretty awesome,” she said.
It had been a 22-year wait for those lights to turn on. The sign was originally used for the building when it was the DeKalb Theatre, which operated from 1949 to 1991. After the theater went out of business, the building has been used by breweries, restaurants and clubs.
Becky Rogers, along with her two sisters and her father Tom Rogers, bought the building in 2007 and opened the beauty school in 2008. The family named the school after Tom Rogers’ late wife, Deb.
They decided to restore the marquee in April with the help of Ohio-based Wagner Electric Sign Co. DeKalb city officials approved spending up to $90,000 to restore the marquee using tax increment financing, which sets aside tax revenue associated with increased property values to be used for economic development.
Tom Rogers has said Debutantes will cover the cost of operating the sign, which is powered by 12 20-amp circuits.
DeKalb Mayor John Rey told the crowd the marquee’s restoration is representative of the private-public partnerships that are important to revitalizing downtown DeKalb.
“This sign and marquee will stand as a beacon of our history to those visitors and residents for many years into the future,” he said.
Former DeKalb Alderman Brendon Gallagher, one of many city officials who helped bring the project to restore the marquee to fruition, also attended Thursday’s ceremony.
“I’ll tell you, this project was dead,” Gallagher said. “It was dead in the water a couple of different times, but sometimes you can electrocute something and bring it back to life.”