Let There Be Neon, located at 38 White Street in Tribeca, has been making and restoring neon signs for 50 years. Owner and Brooklyn native Jeff Friedman has been with the company — which was founded in SoHo in 1972 by late artist, filmmaker and painter Rudi Stern — for 45 years.

What You Need To Know

  • Let There Be Neon was founded in 1972 by artist and filmmaker Rudi Stern

  • It was originally in Soho and later moved to its current location in Tribeca

  • The company uses both neon and argon to create their signs and displays

  • The company restores old neon signs and creates new ones for businesses, artworks and residential use

"He saw a need and a love for neon signs, which he felt were being neglected, being replaced by cheap plastic signs at that time," Friedman said. Friedman added that Stern's original concept was to take existing old neon signs and resell them.

Stern also had the idea of offering custom neon signs. Soon, they were making signs for discos like Studio 54 and other businesses. The signs were in demand not just for the outside of businesses, but the inside of businesses, too.

"Decorators for these retail locations started to use neon. It was absolutely fresh and unheard of," Friedman said.

The process of making a neon sign starts with the raw glass tubing, which is heated and bent into a shape. The colors come from gas and colored glass tubes, some with phosphorous coatings. 

"Neon is actually a gas. It's in the air that we breathe. Neon is red gas. We also use argon, which is a blue gas," Friedman said. He noted that combining different gases with the glass brings the wide variety of colors. 

Ed Skrypa has been working at Let There Be Neon for 35 years. He is a glass bender, so he takes the raw glass tubing and crafts it into shapes and letters.

"I receive a pattern from the art department, and maybe it will include a PDF as far as telling me where the wires have to hook up — any other pertinent information I need," Skrypa said. He then lays the pattern out on a work bench and goes from there.

Over the years, the company has restored neon signs at some of the city's most popular businesses, like the Upper West Side's Dublin House. Others include Russ and Daughters on the Lower East Side, Old Town Bar and the Hotel Chelsea. They do make other types of signs and displays, but the glow of neon is always present at the gallery.