L-Ken’s sign, restaurant, demolition began today

I knew it would happen.  It was only a matter of time.

But when I received a message from one of my loyal blog readers, I knew I only had a few moments to act.

Background.

I had just put the finishing touches on this morning’s blog, when I received a comment on one of my other blog posts.  It was Dave.  And his message:  “They tore down L-Ken’s Drive-In today.  Go buy the sign.”

Well, I didn’t have enough money to buy the sign – heck, if I did, that sign would have been in the Town and Village years ago – but I did have enough time this morning to race over to Colonie and see if it was true, that L-Ken’s Drive-In was on its last heartbeat.

Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And the sign – the last remaining example of Googie advertising on Route 5 between Albany and Schenectady – was now being disassembled by Town of Colonie construction workers.  As I arrived, a worker in a cherry-picker had already loosened off the RC Cola sign from its moorings, and was now carefully removing the plexiglass waiving chef from the sign itself.

“Hey, you!”

It was another Town of Colonie construction worker, looking directly at me.

“Yes?”

“This is a hard-hat area only.  If you want to take pictures, you need to step back.”

I took a few steps back.

“More steps.”

Great.  I’m playing Mother May I with the Town of Colonie public works department.  I look around.  There are no other photographers or interested parties nearby.  If I don’t get these shots… no one will.

I took a few steps back.  I also stayed along the sidewalk and used as much technical acumen that my BlackBerry PRIV could achieve.

Construction worker removing L-Ken's chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker removing L-Ken’s chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And slowly, surely, the construction worker removed the panel.  I wached as another worker manipulated the cherry-picker basket to bring the panel safely to the ground without it shattering into a million pieces – either the sign, or the construction worker.  Safety first.  It is a hard-hat area, after all…

A couple of construction workers took the panel and hauled it over to a flatbed.

“Hey!” I called to them.

They looked up.

“Hold the sign up, I’ll get your picture.”

And sure enough…

Construction workers with piece of L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction workers with piece of L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I swear that chef sorta looks like a caricature of Mario Cuomo.  Doesn’t he?

Anyways, the cherry-picker construction worker tried to examine if the next piece of the sign – the rotating hot dog that had “DRIVE-IN” and “SNACKS” in neon tubes – could come down.  But it was bolted together in such a way that other pieces of the sign had to be removed beforehand.

The workers moved their equipment to the other side of the sign, and the cherry-picker started to remove the second chef sign.

Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And within minute, that sign was removed as well.

Demolition on the L-Ken’s sign will continue throughout the day, I expect.  At 7:30 a.m. this morning, this was all that was left of the sign that once brought generations of fried food lovers to this little corner of Central Avenue.

L-Ken's sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
L-Ken’s sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.  Just wow.

I know the sign had become an eyesore over the years, but there was some faint hope that maybe someone would restore the sign or declare it a landmark or restore the sign or buy the property or restore the sign or restore the sign.

At this point, though… all that’s left are memories once again.

And I suspect that the next time I visit this little corner of Central Avenue…

The sign will be gone.

I’ll still have memories of L-Ken’s – including those based on photos I have taken.

Like this one from 2014, in which I re-animated the sign with digital colored neon.

Re-lighting L-Ken’s. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens, and a little electronic paint job. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Or this restored L-Ken’s sign with its original ice cream cone replacing the garish real estate advertising sign.

L-Ken's Drive-In Updated Sign//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Yeah, L-Ken’s is now officially gone.   The sign will vanish.

I’m sad to see it go.

But I’m glad I was around when it was there.

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12 thoughts on “L-Ken’s sign, restaurant, demolition began today”

  1. It IS sad, Chuck. The abandonment and deterioration of L-Kens for at least 40 years is extremely sad. I will never understand why the DeLeonardis family neglected the property all these years, why they never sold it. (Probably butchered their name–sorry–I’m reaching back into memories that never were!) Were they like the owners of the bike shop where CVS is on Wolf & Sand Creek waiting for the right price? (The brothers ended up in a nursing home, the state taking every penny they finally got for the bike shop). Why did they never sell the place as a going concern when it was? That’s how/when you sell a business–when it’s thriving or at least operating. I understand L-Kens went significantly downhill over the years. Jumpin Jacks seems one of few independent fast food who have maintained quality of food, service & prices over generations. But you sell a business like that when it’s operating.
    I still don’t understand why it sat there rotting all these years–prime real estate along the rapidly growing Rte 5 corridor. (Evolution or regression? $64000 ?!) Surely the DeLeonardis family didn’t lack for offers. Again, prime commercial real estate along the burgeoning Rte. 5 corridor.
    Thank you, Chuck for capturing the final moments of that iconic sign. And thank you for whatever legerdemain you used to capture the sign in its glory. I wish you COULD have purchased the sign & donated it to the Albany Institute of History & Art. The sign was as iconic as Nipper. All is now lost except for memories.

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    1. The DeLeonardis family owned Bob & Ron’s, not L-Kens, until they sold it sometime around 2000.

      The Lubiniecki family owned L-Ken’s. Ken Lubiniecki in fact (L-Ken’s – get it?) until he passed around 2005 and his mother took control of the property. As I understand it his mother had no interest in running it and tried letting someone else run the business. She was not happy with the way it was being run and closed it up for good after a year or so.

      I was always hopeful that someone would purchase it and bring it back to its glory days. I have fond memories of going there for ice cream after little league games, their unique steak sandwiches and cheeseburgers with grilled onions.

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    2. The owner of Jerry’s Bikes on Wolf Road was not holding out for the highest price. Jerry had his personal reasons for not wanting to give up the bike shop or sell the property until after his death, which he often shared with his customers. Old age, the inability to work as he approached 80, may have changed his opinions, but he was NOT out for big money in his lifetime, He could have had that many times over but refused any offers. If someone had promised to take over the bike shop, it might still be there.

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  2. From a T-U article dated January 5th, 2011:

    “Burke intends to spare the L-Ken’s roadside sign from the wrecking ball for the time being. He knows it’s a landmark in the region.”

    It must be that “time being” is equivalent to around 5 years. L-Ken’s was a summertime part of my life and my family’s life. I even created a painting of it. I used to live in Colonie but now live in Rockport MA, and just outside of Boston there are examples of roadside mid-century signage purposely left standing—despite the demolition of the buildings they went with. It’s unfortunate to say the least that this Capital Region landmark was only kept for a short time. The good news is that our favorite memories are still intact, and those can’t be destroyed.

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  3. Almost as sad as losing L-Ken’s was the demolition of one of the only (maybe even THE only) example of a tapestry brick home next door to L-Ken’s. A true gem of building excellence. Sad to see yet another landmark destroyed in favor of a cold box store. When will it end in Colonie 😦

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    1. That “crazy brick” home was a historical home in Colonie. It will be replaced by enough parking for maybe three cars. Colonie has no sense of history. The building was far better than three parking spaces.

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