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Collaboration, 'ghost signs' fueling interest in Redkey

As special contributor Paul Lefkovitz, member of the Antique Advertising Association of America, explains in this special on Eye on Entrepreneurs column, often times advertising of the past draws interest today.
fresh paint 'ghost sign'

A little fresh paint has been added to this 'ghost signs' advertisement, but the original set up is still visible in downtown Redkey, Indiana.

Editor’s Note: This article is about Redkey, Indiana. It originally appeared in the November 2017 edition of the Antique Advertising Association of America’s (AAAA) “Checkboard” e-newsletter. It appears with permission from the AAAA.

By Paul Lefkovitz

In a little out-of the-way place in East-Central Indiana is a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs. They are bringing their little town back to life.

Redkey, Indiana has been undergoing a metamorphosis over the past three years or so with the goal of transforming it into a regional destination for antiquing, shopping, and entertainment. The town now boasts six antique stores, one more on the way, three restaurants, a vintage theater, and a varied assortment of other shops and businesses.

Past Promotion Drives Present

Redkey is a charming and historic setting with a variety of fascinating turn of the 20th century edifices. Some antique advertising is available in the antique stores but the most unique draw of the town for AAAA members, and anyone really, might very well be the abundance of “ghost signs.”

Ghost signs are brick walls showcasing ads painted and worn over time. They are also brickads. They were painted throughout the U.S. by artisans, known as “wall dogs,” from around 1900 through the 1930s. These vestiges of the past can be found in many places throughout this charming town. Furth It is a credit to the locals that they have preserved these historic images, along with the buildings they occupy.

Furthermore, the antique shops in town offer a variety of interesting vintage items. For those with mid-century interests, there is a specialty store with a large and impressive inventory.

Combining Efforts

Redkey planners have assembled a variety of fun things to do. The Key Palace Theater offers blues and rock ’n roll concerts, Shadow Patrol Paranormal Investigationspresents ghost tours on select Saturdays, and they also conduct a Downtown Market on the first Saturday of each month from April to October.Obviously, this is a place that values creative enjoyment.

The Redkey Historic District is among the National Register of Historic Places. It was the home of the notorious Shambarger’s Restaurant for many years. Founded in 1929, Shambarger’s achieved national fame when the founder’s son, John, took over in 1963 and turned it into a one-of-a-kind dining and entertainment experience. While the restaurant is the recipient of a Holiday Magazine Award and other national accolades, its draw is as much for the vaudevillian-type antics of its owner.

A Redkey Welcome

Diners will encounter outrageous and hilarious goings on. For example, for every course, the waitstaff would all change clothes. Word is President Kennedy once left Secret Service guards in order to spend an evening dining at Shambarger’s. The restaurant closed in the early 1980s. John’s daughter is now carrying on the family tradition at the Lil’ Bistro Restaurant in town. In addition, the original vacant Shambarger’s building still stands.

Redkey is about 20 minutes northeast of Muncie, Indiana.

Finally, while it is a bit out of the way, it would make for a unique and entertaining experience. 

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