Ray Davies said he knows what he is, he's glad he's a man and so's Lola, and Merle Haggard takes a lot of pride in what he is, as well. From a Forgotten NY point of view, I like an unadorned business awning sign that states what you will find inside with no obfuscation, no unwarranted puffery, and gets the job done with as few words as possible (unlike this rather prolix introduction). To wit, here's a few awning signs I've found lately that fit the bill. Almost to a one, they date several decades old; modern vinyl awning signs are filled with just about everything sold within. In the old days, they just got to the point a little sooner. Like I had better.
You'll find Block Drugs on 2nd Avenue and East 6th, across from the old Fillmore East (Village mosaicist Jim Power has seen to it that you can't miss that spot with an installation on the stoplight post commemorating the location). Stop by here during the evening -- the awesome neon still lights up. Block has been in business since 1885 but has only carried the "Block" name since the 1940s. The sign was installed in 1950 and much of the old-fashioned interior has been left intact as well.
This green and white hand-lettered Cleaners sign can be found on East 14th just south of Avenue U in Homecrest, Brooklyn. It's a little unusual -- a lowercase-style C has been placed in front, giving it a vaguely Cyrillic look.
There's been no need to replace the plastic letters on this French Cleaners sign on Columbus and West 70th Street, but since some of the letters seem to be detaching, the management may have to soon. What is French cleaning, anyway? Is it generic for dry cleaning?
This painted laundromat sign at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue R in Midwood faces full sun most of the day and has begun to fade.
If Mansoura Bakery were commissioning a sign like this in 2009 they would undoubtedly have to use a more PC description than Oriental, just to be on the safe side.
If you look at photos of Main Street USA from the 1940s or 1950s, chances are a Rexall Drugs sign would appear in the photo somewhere. The chain was the CVS or Walgreens of its day. Rexalls are few and far between these days -- I've only seen a couple in New York. This one was located on Victory Boulevard just south of Bay Street. Unfortunately it was taken down in 2008.
Rudy's, on 9th Avenue in the Fifties in Hell's Kitchen, is one of the grand old dive bars dating back to when Hell's Kitchen deserved the name -- it opened in 1933. Inside you'll find plastic pitchers of beer, ripped and duct-taped red vinyl booths, tin ceiling, linoleum floor, and free! hot dogs. And this magnificent neon sign.