ALBANY, Ga. -- For the past five years, the city's famous Arctic Bear sign has lived a lonely life as the sole inhabitant of The Thronateeska Heritage Foundation's neon sign collection.
On Thursday, the bear gained a roomie.
Jay Short, president of Short & Paulk Supply Co., formally turned over possession of the iconic "Mr. Builder" sign to Thronateeska Executive Director Tommy Gregors at the newly renovated Short & Paulk Supply store, formerly Giles Building Supply, on North Cleveland Street and Pine Avenue.
For 57 years, Mr. Builder swang his neon hammer atop the Giles building. Once Short & Paulk purchased the property, the sign's future was uncertain.
"It was important for us to keep this part of Albany's history alive and available to the public," Gregors said. "Many people drove by that sign almost every day. We didn't want to lose it."
Short said while in the process of buying the property from Larry Walden, that he learned of Mr. Builder's importance.
"When we were negotiating with Larry to buy the building, he asked what we were going to do with the sign," Paulk recalled. "He said if we didn't plan on using it that he would hate to see it just go away.
"So he made a request that we donate the sign to the people of Albany and we agreed."
Not only did Short & Paulk donate the sign, the Tifton-based supply company also spent a significant amount of money renovating the nearly 80-year-old peach packing facility.
"I'm happy Jay gave us the sign, it's part of Albany," Walden said. "But they also spent a lot of money fixing the building up. And this building is an albany icon.
"Jay preserved the building and made it better. It lifts the whole area up."
Short & Paulk currently operates two stores in Tifton and two more in Sylvester and Cordele. The Albany store, scheduled for an early May opening, adds a fifth store to the company's portfolio.