Sign of (another) time uncovered on Diamond Knot building

By Sara Bruestle | May 22, 2013
Courtesy of: Sherry Jennings A sign for a take-out restaurant that served fish and chips, clam chowder and hamburgers in the 1970s was found underneath decades-old siding on May 15 during renovations of the Front Street building that is home to the Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse.

As staff asked for Neptune’s blessing at the grand re-opening of the Diamond Knot restaurant back in April, they didn’t realize that the Roman god of the sea was already there.

A sign was uncovered on May 15 during last-touch renovations of the exterior of the building at 621 Front St. that depicts Neptune wielding his trident and wearing a crown.

Crews were removing decades-old siding from the building around 9 a.m. in order to lay new bricks when they found a sign underneath for a take-out restaurant called Neptune’s Galley.

“The contractor working for the building owners was pulling off the wood siding and happened to come across it,” said Sherry Jennings, Diamond Knot spokesperson. “It was a total surprise.”

“We’re going to clean it up the best we can and track down the artist… and see if we can preserve it in some way. We’re doing our due diligence.”

The sign, which can be seen from the Mukilteo Speedway on the east, promotes Neptune’s as the “Home of the Galley Burger” and touts the restaurant’s “Very Fast Service.”

Owner Burt Aronsen opened Neptune’s Galley in 1971 in the northwest corner of what is now the Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse.

Neptune’s served cheap fish and chips, clam chowder and hamburgers – the typical beachfront fare. The signature burger on the menu was the “Galley Burger.”

“His hamburgers were OK, but the food really wasn’t spectacular,” said Doug Kimball, who later opened a mercantile next door. “Everything was out of a can. His chowder was out of a can.”

Before Neptune’s, Aronsen owned the Island Empire bus line. He used the building as a “bus barn” for his business. Aronsen sold the Island Empire line in 1970, trading buses for burgers.

Aronsen also opened an ice cream shop next to Neptune’s – about where the alehouse entrance is – which he leased to several different owners over the years, including Ken Collier.

Diamond Knot has a “Collier’s Creamery” sign hanging inside the alehouse.

The owners of Diamond Knot would like to keep the old Neptune's sign, if the city will allow it, and add a brick frame around it, said Patricia Love, the city’s assistant director of community development.

“They don’t want it to count against their signage," Love said. "We are researching codes to determine if the Historic Sign exemption could apply."

Neptune’s was sold around 1978 and became the Barnacle’s Restaurant, until it closed around 1980. Barnacle’s Restaurant was basically a “fancier” Neptune’s, Kimball said.

After Barnacle’s, the restaurant became the Mukilteo Café, and then Wong’s Garden Chinese Restaurant, China Express, and the Manhattan Restaurant. Most recently, it had been Woody’s, a shop that sold souvenirs and ice cream.

In 1976, Doug and Lois Kimball opened the Mukilteo Mercantile in the eastern half of the building. The mercantile sold antiques and gifts, including pottery, baskets and paintings.

The Kimballs shut down the mercantile in 1981 and turned it into a bar called the Mukilteo Beverage Co. They sold it in 1983.

The bar was renamed Cheers Too! Diamond Knot opened Mukilteo’s first microbrewery in the back of the bar in 1994.

Diamond Knot soon purchased Cheers Too! and renamed it the Brewery & Alehouse in 1999.

With the expansion and remodel, the alehouse has doubled in size. It now has a bigger kitchen, more restaurant seating, and a coffee and ice cream café. Its grand re-opening was on April 6.

Staff “christened” the restaurant Diamond-Knot style by breaking a bottle of its India Pale Ale.

Now Diamond Knot is busy updating the exterior of the building, Jennings said.

“We’re redoing the outside of the building, putting on a new façade with rock filling and wood on top,” she said. “We’re giving it a facelift.”

Diamond Knot staff posted a photo of the Neptune’s Galley sign on Facebook, asking fans to help them identify the year and story behind the sign. However, staff are hearing from more than just Facebook fans.

“Everybody is commenting,” Jennings said. “I’m even hearing things on Whidbey about Great Neptune on the side of building.”

Fans responded on Facebook in earnest, sharing what history they knew and advocating for the sign to be salvaged in some way:

“Keep it for its character and its history!” wrote Kimberly Jarosik.

“You can’t cover that up!” wrote Maria Michael.

“Please keep it! Or, sell it to me!” wrote Chris Ballard.

Fan Steve Smith had another idea: “You absolutely have to put a Galley Burger on the menu now.”

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