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Light back up Spokane: Neon sign maker, shop owner seek to bring light to the city

While light-emitting diode (LED) products have recently grown in popularity, Tony Braun believed his career was finished. Until he met Chris Bovey.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane natives alike will likely remember the neon sign at several local institutions, such as the old White Elephant and Wolffy's.

All of these neon signs are a huge part of Spokane's history.

Tony Braun has been making science into art for decades by creating neon signs.

"I went to neon sign school in rural Minnesota," Braun said. "I've been doing it ever since."

While light-emitting diode (LED) products have recently grown in popularity, Braun believed his career was finished. Eventually, he moved to Spokane and met Chris Bovey, who said he has always loved neon and the old neon of Spokane.

When a local neon worker retired, Bovey bought the shop. However, he did not know how to bend neon at all.

It was then that he and Braun came together.

"This guy walks up to me out of the dark and he says, 'Man that's a cool sign and I'm looking for a shop to bend in,'" Bovey explained. "And I was like, 'Dude, this is crazy because I just bought a neon shop last week."

"And I'm like, 'I've been doing this for 25 years,'" Braun said. "So that's how we got together."

Now, the two are working together to light Spokane back up again, with the help of Bovey's old garage that is now filled with bending, bombarding, heating and filling.

"It's been so busy instantly," Braun said. "As soon as he said he had the shop, the work just started coming in."

Bovey added this neon venture to his famous vintage prints business, creating vintage prints and neon. He said he is defining success by how bright Spokane gets.

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