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Campaign will find Wholey's 'Smiling Fish' sign new home

| Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 10:42 a.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jim Wholey, president of The Robert Wholey & Co. Inc., joined Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto to announce a campaign to relocate the Wholey smiling fish sign on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 at the store in the Strip District.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jim Wholey, president of The Robert Wholey & Co. Inc., joined Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto to announce a campaign to relocate the Wholey smiling fish sign Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, at the store in the Strip District.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jim Wholey, president of The Robert Wholey & Co. Inc. (left), joins Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto to announce a campaign to relocate the Wholey smiling fish sign on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, at the store in the Strip District.

Pittsburgh residents can save a gigantic fish sign that's beckoned customers to a Strip District market for more than two decades.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto and Jim Wholey, president of Robert Wholey & Co., announced on Monday they would collect suggestions until Jan. 31 on where to put the Wholey's “Smiling Fish” sign, a 100-by-60-foot Strip District icon made of light bulbs.

“That's part of the cultural fabric of Pittsburgh,” Wholey said. “We owe it to Pittsburgh to let (residents) decide where the fish should go.”

Wherever it goes, Wholey's will pay to have the sign installed and the monthly electric bill required to light it, he said.

People can put their ideas in red boxes marked with smiling fish stickers at Wholey's in the Strip or make suggestions via the Twitter hashtag #smilingfish or e-mail address smilingfishsign@gmail.com.

Residents said they preferred to see it remain in its current location atop the former Federal Cold Storage building at 1501 Penn Ave.

“If it has to be moved, I'd say it should go to the South Side (Slopes) or Mt. Washington near the Bayer sign,” said Missy Grass, 40, of Carrick. “Everybody would be able to see it there.”

The sign was a Christmas gift from employees to Robert Wholey Sr., who died in 1998.

Sampson Morris Group, a Monroeville real estate firm that bought the former cold storage warehouse in 2007, is planning to renovate it into a 144-unit apartment building. The developer plans to remove the sign.

Peduto promised that the city would try to eliminate red tape that could delay the fish sign from finding a new home.

“For 25 years that smiling fish has been looking down over the city of Pittsburgh,” he said. “When we bring in the new, we don't want to throw out the old.”

The incoming mayor suggested the Heinz History Center might want the sign.

Mt. Washington resident Gordon Kennedy, 55, said the museum would be a good place for it.

“I don't really care to see it,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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