Last week, a new sign was seen on the roof of Paul’s Daughter, a 49-year-old Coney Island Mom and Pop being booted off the City-owned Boardwalk at the end of the month. Papa Burger, a winsome fiberglass figure, is sporting a sign that says “Looking for a New Beach.”
“I am looking for a new location,” Tina Georgoulakos, the owner of Paul’s Daughter, told ATZ. “Our first preference is to stay on the Boardwalk in Coney Island, if we can’t have that, then we are looking for another beach.”
What are her plans for Mama and Papa Burger? The reason we ask is numerous people, including fans of roadside signage, have sent emails expressing concern about the fate of the figures, which have been part of the Coney Island skyline for decades. They wanted to make sure these rare pieces of roadside Americana were preserved. Last fall, when the businesses first received “Surrender the Premises” notices, among the people we heard from was Debra Jane Seltzer, a devotee of roadside architecture who has catalogued the whereabouts of the Burger figures known as the “A & W Root Beer Family” on her wonderful website RoadsideArchitecture.com.
“The A&W Burger Family may not be the biggest giants out there but they are arguably the cutest,” writes Seltzer on the “Land of Giants” section of her site. “In 1963, A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Baby Burger, and Teen Burger.” When A & W introduced another mascot called “the Great Root Bear” in 1974, some stores began selling off the burger figures, which have ended up at places as various as Magic Forest in Lake George, New York, and the backyard of a private residence in Portland, Oregon. Others are in storage or have been greatly altered, according to Seltzer’s research.
“I found the man that made them,” Tina says. “It took all day. His name is Steve Dashew.” There’s a touch of excitement in her voice. In an interview with Roadside America, the former president of International Fiberglass and creator of the Muffler Men and other figures said, “My favorite of all of them was a ‘burger family’: Mama Burger, Papa Burger, Baby Burger, a little larger than life-sized.” Tina contacted him to find out how much the Burger people weighed, so she’d know if a crane would be required to remove them from the roof. It turns out Papa Burger is 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and weighs 250 pounds. “I’m going to wrap them with ropes and lower them down,” Tina said. “I am taking every single thing with me. Anything that has meaning is coming with me.”
Another soon-to-vanish piece of Coney Island Americana is the vernacular signage of Paul’s Daughter, including Mister Shrimp and other favorites, which we will detail in another post. “I had considered an auction of certain things but I’m not sure what they are,” says Tina. “It will all depend on whether we move the business somewhere else and I don’t have the answer to that as of yet. If I can’t use them, then I will be auctioning them off.”
Formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, the beloved seaside restaurant and its signage is featured in the book “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York” (see photo here). It was also the scene of the 1999 music video “Summer Girls,” in which the band LFO danced on the roof in front of the Astroland Rocket. “It was a sad day when the Rocket left,” says Tina. “The Burger statues really miss it. We do too!” Why doesn’t the City keep Paul’s Daughter, the Burger Family and return the Rocket to its rightful place on the roof?
The restaurant is being evicted from the Boardwalk property to make way for a gentrified, corporatized Coney Island. The City-owned property is expected to be taken over by a concession run by France’s Sodexo, the world’s 21st largest corporation. Sodexo was chosen by the Italian company that runs Luna Park to be their partner for “On-Site Service Solutions.”
Through November 4th, ATZ is posting a favorite photo (or two) a day to say goodbye to the Boardwalk Mom and Pops who must “Surrender the Premises” at the end of the month. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the posts.
Related posts on ATZ…
October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk
October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk
January 13, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Dishes on the Boardwalk Brawl
December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video