Dubbed by Herb Caen as “the City’s largest fortune cookie,” the ever-quoting tire shop marquee at Turk and Larkin Streets will be taken down and replaced by housing.
It is with a sad heart that we inform readers of the impending demise of the intellectual quote-slinging sign at the Tenderloin’s Kahn and Keville automotive body and tire shop, as reported by NBC Bay Area. After a long struggle with accepting the Trump presidency, the marquee sign will pass away in the weeks or months to come, surrounded by loved ones, admirers, and bewildered passersby. The sign was 63 years old.
SFist has confirmed with shop staff at the Turk Street facility that the shop is now forever closed, though is consolidating operations with Kahn and Keville’s South San Francisco location.
The Kahn and Keville tire shop opened in 1912 on Golden Gate Avenue, a neighborhood then informally known as “Tire Row” for its preponderance of retailers selling auto wheels. The store moved to its current location at Turk and Larkin in 1935, though the marquee sign we’ve come to love and learn from was erected in 1956. World War I veteran and shop founder Hugh Keville started scrawling quotes he collected from his wartime notebook into large font on butcher paper, and hung the signs in the lobby. He switched to putting the oft-tread quotes onto the public marquee in the late 50s, then handed the tradition on to garage co-owner Ron Dhein in the 1970s, and it has continued as such ever since.
“Never talks about money or tires or brakes,” Dhein told NBC Bay Area. “It only talks about maybe events around it.”
“But the Russians said— Nancy Friedman (@Fritinancy) November 18, 2019
Don’t drain the swamp
Make it into a farm
And put the pigs in charge
They’ll know what to do.”
- Kahn & Keville (since 1912), San Francisco pic.twitter.com/naYDo5WG2d
According to KQED’s fantastic oral history of the tire shop sign, the quote selection process has in recent years been handled by store manager Bill Brinnon. He chooses from several quotes nominated by mechanics, customers, and neighborhood residents, and in recent years the quotes have taken a bent towards trolling President Trump.
“I think there are some real problems and dangers facing us. Because it’s a government based on impulse,” Brinnon told KQED last year. “It’s not what we’re used to, but the corner sign is what we’re used to. We don’t change too much around here.”
Yet now, the tires are a’changing. Curbed points out that the location was purchased by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) in 2016. TNDC recently pulled the final funding necessary from the state, and will soon break ground on a 108-unit affordable housing complex scheduled to be completed in the next year or two.
And they are keeping the sign! According to NBC Bay Area, TNDC plans to “incorporate the sign inside the lobby of its new affordable housing building to continue to display changing messages for its residents.” The station also notes TNDC plans “to install some sort of digital sign on the corner in homage to the original.”
At Kahn and Keville, located at Turk & Larkin Streets, San Francisco.#KahnAndKeville #SanFrancisco #SF #Sign #Signage #Signs #Tenderloin #Wisdom #Wise https://t.co/F7WqoDO0fk pic.twitter.com/gMaqfP7aNG— Helen Christie 🏳️🌈 (@HCwrites) December 22, 2019
The sign’s final outdoor message, currently on display, is a quote attributed to the African deity Mbombo that reads “When old people die, it’s like a library of stories burning down.”
Image: Andy K. via Yelp