Iconic sign comes down as plans for restaurant move forward

Century-old building has a 'fabulous history'

WEST READING, Pa. - A sign of something new coming to West Reading couldn't be missed by people traveling along Penn Avenue on Thursday.

"It's exciting," said Frank Cocuzza, who now owns 416 Penn Avenue, the former site of A to Z Vacuum & Fan Outlet.

A large crane towered high above the street as workers carefully removed and lowered A to Z's iconic sign from the building the business had called home for some 40 years.

"By taking down the signs, we're going to have it looking somewhat like it did back in 1913, when it was built," Cocuzza told 69 News.

The building has sat empty since A to Z relocated a few years ago to a new space at 350 North Park Road in neighboring Wyomissing.

"We've been looking for quite awhile to begin the project of renovating the exterior of the building, and this is our first step," said Cocuzza, who is no stranger to Penn Avenue.

Cocuzza owns the Say Cheese! Restaurant & Cheese at Sixth and Penn avenues. Now, he's anxious to launch his newest endeavor while breathing new life into the century-old building.

"It's just got a fabulous history. The guy who built it began selling automobiles here in 1914. He also was the guy who founded the first bank in Wyomissing in 1914."

Cocuzza said he has plans to highlight the building's history as he transforms the property into a restaurant, bar, and lounge.

"The restaurant being on the first floor and some sort of bar/lounge on the second floor, and the third floor is still undecided," Cocuzza told 69 News.

Until then, much work needs to be done before Cocuzza's vision becomes a reality and the building becomes the bustling borough's newest hotspot.

"In the spring, then we're going to work on trying to remove the paint on front of the building to get it back to its original exterior," he said. "It's just a great building with an absolutely great history. It was one of the first DeSoto dealerships in 1913.

Longtime neighbor Kevin Calabria is excited, too. In fact, he said he had the idea first.

"Walking past here every day, I looked at that thing and I wondered, 'Man, that would be really neat to have a club with a couple of floors on it," he said.

He remembers how it was back in the day.

"My dad bought a Dodge here in 1961. A white Dodge," said Calabria. "I can remember it because it had push buttons on the dashboard."

A to Z's former owner, Ron Light, also paid tribute to the building's automotive history by displaying some of his own classic cars on the floor above the vacuum and fan showroom.

As for the two-story-tall sign, Ron's son and A to Z's current owner, Scott Light, told 69 News that he would love to keep it, but he has no space for it at his current location.

"It's part of our history," Scott told 69 News. "It's been a part of Penn Avenue for years."

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