A.B.S. Signs lighting up the Wildwoods for 50 years

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Courtesy ABS Sign Company/ A.B.S. Sign Company will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2014, and this is one of the earliest pictures of the company at work. Courtesy ABS Sign Company/ A.B.S. Sign Company will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2014, and this is one of the earliest pictures of the company at work. Hentges wants to recreate classic sign

WILDWOOD — Inside the shop at A.B.S. Sign Company on Park Boulevard, a Mack’s Pizza sign is missing all its letters. Across the room, a giant red sign from the top of the Matador Motel has just received a fresh coat of red paint, while a designer draws up a sketch of a new sign for a nail salon in Rio Grande on his computer.

Chances are, most of those neon doo-wop-style signs in Wildwood, as well as some more modern ones, have been created at A.B.S. Sign Company, which has been in business since 1964. In 2014, the company will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“I kind of grew up in here,” Randy Hentges, owner of A.B.S. Sign Company, said. When Hengtes father, Bob, was running the business, his son handled the neon work.

Hentges says that most of the signs designed by A.B.S that are still on the area hotels and motels are from the ’80s.

Now, Hentges has an idea to light up Route 47 with some Wildwood nostalgia. He plans to redesign the iconic Wildwood By-the-Sea sign, which is no longer there, and install it at the foot of the Rio Grande bridge. His plan depends on if he can get the funds through a crowd-sourcing website like Kickstarter.com and approval from local governments and the Wildwood Information Center.

“That picture is everywhere, and everybody’s seen it,” Hentges said of the black and white photo of the sign, which appeared in the Wildwood Centennial literature.

Ann Vinci, president of the Wildwood Historical Society, said that the classic photo was taken during the 50’s, but wasn’t sure of the date.

“It’s a mystery,” Vinci said. She added that the society was not sure when the Wildwood By-the-Sea sign was first built, or when it came down. She said she remembered seeing the sign on her way to Wildwood on family vacations, as early as 1947.


With a site like Kickstarter, Hentges thinks A.B.S. may be able to gather a lot of a public support for his project.

“I thought, ‘Let’s just try it,’” he said. “It’s not the coolest sign in the world. It’s a box sign, but it’s the iconic sign that you always see in all these pictures with the girls standing in front of it or sitting on top of it.”

When Hentges proposed the idea on his company’s Facebook page, he said it was shared several times over and seen by locals, tourists and businesses.

“This is an excellent idea, a new sign would become an instant landmark for those entering the island and starting their vacations!” one person commented.

Hentges posted two mock-ups of the potential sign, one with a blue and red color scheme, the other red and yellow. Determining what colors the sign should be, Hentges said, is guess-work.

“There’s no color picture to see what it was,” he said.

Based on Facebook reactions, the blue and red color scheme was more popular. On both designs, Hentges included an electronic sign board that can be used to advertise events in the Wildwoods. Now, those events are advertised on banners near the information center.

A.B.S. Signs is more than just doo-wop and neon though. Hentges and his team created the sign at the entrance of the Flow House at Splash Zone, which he said was a huge project for the company last summer. They also create vinyl car wraps, as well as conventional signs like those on banks and attorney’s offices.

“Everybody thinks we only do the big neon stuff,” he said.

Hentges said that more hotel owners are looking to keep their doo-wop signs, not out of nostalgia, but due to monetary constraints. He said clients often ask him to “get them through one more year” with their current signs – a new one can set someone back upwards of $15,000.

Those who do need new signs, he said, are often going for something a little more modern.

“It’s weird like that,” he said of Wildwood’s doo-wop roots. “People here don’t appreciate what it is, or recognize how people all over the place do appreciate it.”

Hentges is a member of the Doo-Wop Preservation League in Wildwood, and is afraid a lot of the moves to keep Wildwood retro aren’t working.

“It was almost like, too little too late,” he said. “Ten years ago, when we started this whole doo-wop thing, we were doing a lot of stuff.”

He said that a lot of the old motels were still torn down to build condominiums because developers were offering owners a lot of money for their properties.

“It was like fighting a losing battle,” he said. “But we still get a handful of customers that still want to go with that look.”

A.B.S. Sign Company is located at 3008 Park Blvd. To keep up to date with information about their Wildwood By-the-Sea sign project, visit their Facebook page.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com

Courtesy ABS Sign Company/The mock up of the sign Randy Hentges wants to recreate at the foot of the George Redding Bridge. Courtesy ABS Sign Company/The mock up of the sign Randy Hentges wants to recreate at the foot of the George Redding Bridge. Photo by Christie Rotondo/Randy Hentges, owner of A.B.S. Sign Company, stands with the Mack’s Pizza sign, which he will spruce up this winter. Photo by Christie Rotondo/Randy Hentges, owner of A.B.S. Sign Company, stands with the Mack’s Pizza sign, which he will spruce up this winter.


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