Dorri Partain 
Assistant Editor 

From bakeries to motels and restaurants, the streets of Historic Northeast once featured glowing neon signs that beckoned patrons to those locations. After years of being removed and stored in various storerooms and back lots, a few of those iconic signs we all knew years ago are being restored and will be on display in a new format.

Kelly’s Bakery was rescued during COVID in 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Lumi Neon Museum.

The glowing green neon featured on the sign for Kelly’s Bakery brings back memories of stopping on the way to school and spending lunch money on baked treats instead of lunch, or maybe a special birthday cake. Owner Jim Kelly opened the bakery after World War II at the corner of Jackson Avenue and St. John and the sign, installed in 1962, stayed with the building even after it stopped glowing. Daughter Colleen Kelly Raveill kept the sign after it came down in 1995 but was happy to pay for the restoration after donating it in 2020 to the growing collection of the Lumi Neon Museum. Founded by photographer Nick Vedros, the idea for a neon museum took hold after he purchased his first neon sign, more or less as a memento of his favorite camera shop, Crick Camera, when it closed. As more signs were acquired, Vedros realized the importance of saving these signs for their place in Kansas City’s history, and the Lumi Neon Museum was founded in 2017.

“I learned along this path of rescuing signs that the story is just as important as the sign,” Vedros said. “These signs were our city’s historic fabric at one time.”

Each sign that becomes part of the collection is researched, starting with a Lumi board member’s collection of Yellow Page phone books. Then Vedros or a board member will seek descendants of the business owner associated with the sign, or someone that worked there.

Jennie’s, an Italian restaurant on Cherry in the Columbus Park neighborhood. | Photo courtesy of the Lumi Neon Museum.
Jennie’s was donated by Hallmark designer Jerry Lobato. | Photo courtesy of the Lumi Neon Museum.

“That’s the fun that’s involved, the sleuthing. You’ve got to get this information while there are living relatives, people that went there (to that business),” Vedros continued. To research the sign that once marked Jennie’s, an Italian restaurant on Cherry in the Columbus Park neighborhood, Vedros contacted Jennie’s grandson in San Diego. The compiled information is used to create a detailed history, a didactic, for each sign. The Jennie’s sign was donated to Lumi by private collector Jerry Lobato.

Additional signs in the collection that will be familiar to old-time Northeasters are signs from two motels along The Paseo. The Capri Motel sign was removed in 2016 and first donated to the Kansas City Museum before becoming part of the Lumi collection in 2022. The Admiral Motel sign was removed in 2017 and was purchased in 2023 through donations.  

Photo by Dorri Partain

Admiral Motel sign was stored in a closet for a number of years.| photo on right is courtesy of the Lumi Neon Museum.

The museum’s collection now numbers nearly 90 signs, all of which are safely stored until the museum’s Neon Alley opens to the public later this year, part of a new entertainment complex named Pennway Point. The first component of the complex, the KC Wheel observation ride, opened last fall. In addition to the infrastructure for Neon Alley, two historic industrial buildings are being retrofitted to function as eateries, both with views of the array of neon signs. The eateries will be operated separately from Lumi’s Neon Alley installation. A custom neon sign will mark the entrance for the Lumi Neon Museum, which Vedros hopes will be free for the public.

“I’m all about trying to get this museum to connect with the public. People are just touched by these things (the old signs), they really connect. There’s a little bit of magic that goes beyond the neon,” Vedros said.

Save The KC Neon, Inc. DBA The Lumi Neon Museum is a non-profit 501(c)3 that relies on sponsors and donations. “We live off donations,” stated Vedros, adding,”98% of our donations go to rescue and restore these signs.”

For more information about the Lumi, their collection, and ways to donate, visit For information about the Pennway Point project, visit