The Morning News â€” Bob Hudson
Mike Krehbiel shows of a couple of the signs he is displaying at his Barn Event Center in Blackfoot.
Step into Mike Krehbiel's Barn Event Center and you could be transported back in time.
The walls of the facility at 305 South Broadway are covered with advertising signs from as far back as the 1930s and as recently as last year.
"I started collecting signs about 1985," Krehbiel said. "Currently I have over 300."
One of the oldest extols the virtues of a company called Stoker-matic. Another, probably from the 1940s, encourages customers to buy Cream Top Dairy products. Both are hand-painted and the dairy sign includes the signature of "Sato Signs."
"Over the years I've bought and sold 600-700 signs," Krehbiel said. "Some of these signs people have brought in and asked, 'hey, I was going to throw this away. Do you want it?'"
Most of the time he does.
Krehbiel would like to provide a home from several old signs from Blackfoot's past. He is willing to buy them or he's willing to work out a loan.
"I like collecting local signs because I hate to see history go away," he said.
People can see his sign collection during the times he is conducting events in the barn. This weekend, for example, he will have a flea market from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Over 20 vendors have signed up to sell their wares. Weather permitting, they and some others may have outside booths.
As he walked around showing off his signs, Krehbiel said, "if there's an empty spot on the wall, I put a sign on it."
He's going to put his largest sign â€” an 8-by-16-foot sign with an anti-meth message â€” on the ceiling of his upstairs office. His daughter Haley painted it and won regional honors in a statewide competition a couple of years ago. It was displayed on the front of his building for a couple of years.
Signs aren't the only thing Krehbiel collects. He has old advertising calendars, framed advertisements from magazines in the 1940s and 1950s, movie posters, and a little bit more.
"I don't collect any sign in particular," he said. "If I can afford it, I buy it."
His favorite sign may be the Country Store Antiques sign which hung in front of his father Clint's store in Aberdeen in the 1970s.
He jokes that his most expensive sign may be one advertising the Red Rhino Cafe.
"That cost me the most because it failed after a year," he said. "My wife and my daughter are both chefs so it was something I always wanted to do. It was just the wrong time for it."
Krehbiel's has also been the site of the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheons for the past several months. That's another opportunity for people to see his sign collection. The next meeting is April 11.