EVERETT — Funko, the maker of popular culture toys and merchandise that is planning to move into downtown Everett, is proposing to deck its new headquarters in neon.
They’ll be LEDs, actually, and not glass tubes filled with neon gas. But the signs the company wants to use to adorn the building are designed to evoke a bygone era.
Brian Mariotti, the company’s owner and CEO, told the Everett Historical Commission last week the signs will bring “a touch of whimsy, a touch of retro, a touch of class,” to downtown.
“We think it’s going to be a draw,” he said.
The Historical Commission unanimously agreed.
Commission Chairman Jack O’Donnell said the plans called to mind the downtown of Easton, Pennsylvania, which used to be the headquarters of the Crayola company.
“In my opinion, this is wonderful. This is exactly what downtown Everett needs,” O’Donnell said.
Commissioner Neil Anderson also likened the Funko plans to other area landmark signs, such as the Seattle P-I globe and the red “R” atop the old Rainier Brewery.
“I think the neon is just great for downtowns, especially in historic districts,” Anderson said.
The school shut down earlier this year after years of losses. City officials believe Funko is going to lease, rather than buy the building.
Funko is currently leasing space in an office park off Shuksan Way in south Everett. It plans to move its business and design departments downtown, with about 175 employees of 300 total. Its warehouse will be located elsewhere.
The building at 2802 Wetmore Ave. was built in 1929. It is listed on Everett’s Register of Historic Places as the Port Gardner Building. It initially housed Rumbaugh’s Department Store and the Balboa Theatre next door. In the 1940s, it was bought and became the Bon Marché. The store closed in 1991.
Under city rules, any time a building on the register is being changed, the owner or operator must obtain permission from the Historical Commission.
The main sign, on the corner of Wetmore and California Street, would be 34 feet tall and topped by a rotating gold crown. The letters are designed to mimic old-style signs with multiple bulbs per letter.
The company’s logo also would appear on the side of the building and above the door. The company agreed to preserve some of the original interior features, such as the terrazzo floors, a decorative stairway handrail and the large storefront windows. Funko also would expose the original ceiling.
Several large statues of the company’s characteristic Pop! figures would adorn the awning, though city planner Paul Popelka said those were considered public art and not under the commission’s purview.
Mariotti said the company plans to include a 2,000-square-foot museum on the ground floor and stock the display windows with rotating line-ups of figures.
The company has legions of fans who follow its artists, Mariotti said.
“These people make pilgrimages,” he said, “and these people make their visit to that corporate business park.”
When asked why he wanted to move into downtown Everett, Mariotti at first joked, “I live up north and I don’t want to drive any farther.”
“If we went to Bellevue or Seattle, we’d be just another company,” he then said. “We want to be something special.”