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August 20, 2013

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By Andrea

RIDGEFIELD — In 1988, Roger Schurman awash his aboriginal neon assurance to a used-car banker on Portland’s Lombard Street at the appendage end of a day abounding of rejection.

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That aboriginal assurance — it said “OPEN” — was alone the alpha for Schurman and Gas ‘n Glass.

Schurman’s hand-crafted neon signs accompanied Papa Murphy’s as it broadcast beyond the nation. They helped advance the bounded microbrewery ability in the aboriginal ’90s for Pyramid, Bridgeport and McMenamins. And they’re still actuality fabricated for The Barbers, Sizzle Pie and Fort George Brewery.

But now, Schurman, 68, is attractive to advertise his business and retire. He is gluttonous a committed applicant who wants to apprentice the craft. He’s promised to advice the applicant move all his accessories to a area of the owner’s choosing. It’s listed for $65,000.

A aside odor of propane hangs in the air of Schurman’s Ridgefield shop, anchored in a abode forth a country alley abreast Green Lake, at 18109 N.W. Krieger Road.

Standing in the boutique over a award burner, Schurman’s sole employee, David Spencer, 63, heats a bright bottle tube over a hissing dejected blaze and places it on a assignment table, angle it to bout a cardboard arrangement aloft a white mat broiled with amber bake marks.

Spencer, who commutes from Portland, said he’s acquisitive the applicant will move the abode about bounded so he can abide alive and advise them the ability and science of neon.

“If there’s work,” Spencer said, “I’ll do it.”

The two are added like business ally than employer and employee, but Spencer makes all of the neon signs. He aeroembolism the bottle and “bombards” the bottle tubes with neon and argon gas. It’s a circuitous action with tubes, tanks, mercury and a aside beam as voltage runs through the gas in the glass.

Schurman was built-in in Woodland in 1951, back it was a boondocks of about 1,500 people. Growing up, he consistently capital to own a business, but he didn’t apperceive what it would be.

He fabricated a account of businesses that absorbed him, which included sign-making and the restaurant industry, but he narrowed it bottomward to signs. He had been circuitous in the Theater Historical Society and admired the adornment and lights that accompanied it.

“I consistently admired the old cine palaces,” he said. “I consistently admired the marquees.”

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So he absitively to accessible a neon-sign business afterwards alive how it worked.

He enlisted in a weekslong academy in Portland.

“Portland had one of the few neon schools in the country,” Shurman said. “That’s how I met Dave. We went to academy at the aforementioned time.”

After commutual the course, Schurman opened his Ridgefield Gas ‘n Bottle and got to work. Gas ‘n Bottle was the aboriginal absolute neon assurance aggregation in Clark County, said Schurman. But the aboriginal years were difficult.

“I approved to get into several shops in Portland,” he said. “They wouldn’t alike accessible the door. No one capital to allocution to me. All they’d acquaint me is there’s no way you could accomplish a active off of neon. Well, they’re aggravating to abash me.”

Since Gas ‘n Bottle opened, Clark County has apparent bristles added neon-exclusive shops appear and go. Today, his is afresh the abandoned assurance boutique authoritative neon.

Spencer, who had opened a neon business in Eugene, Ore., came to assignment for Schurman a few years afterwards Gas ‘n Bottle opened.

In the aboriginal years of his business, Schurman accomplished out to Pyramid, Bridgeport and McMenamins brewing companies and anchored all three as clients.

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“I was the one to amount out there was a bazaar for ability breweries,” Schurman said. “That’s back there was alone a handful. If you’ve anytime been to McMenamins, you’ve apparent our glass. I’ve been accomplishing the brothers’ neon back 1992.”

That includes the neon for the Crystal Ballroom — but alone the calm neon; Schurman’s business isn’t accountant to accomplish alfresco neon signs.

McMenamins ordered so abounding signs in a aside dejected blush that Schurman calls the blush “McMenamins Blue.”

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“It looks old fashioned,” he said.

In 1998, Schurman acquired Papa Murphy’s as a applicant afterwards algid calling its workers; it remained one of his better audience as the take-and-bake pizza alternation advance beyond the country.

“I ample out that they were in Vancouver and gave them a call,” he said. “They aloof happened to be attractive for somebody.”

About bristles years later, though, Papa Murphy’s alone Gas ‘n Bottle afterwards chief not to accept any signs in its shops.

Gas ‘n Bottle makes custom neon and argon signs and sells pre-made signs, including the all-over “OPEN” sign, at prices starting about $140. Larger custom signs amount up to assorted bags of dollars, Schurman said. That includes a circuitous dejected assurance fabricated for The Sparrow Salon in Portland that took canicule to make.

“I assumption we’re still accomplishing article right,” he said. “I’m accepting a lot of Portland’s assignment over here.”

Schurman said he has a brace of absorbed buyers lined up, but he’s actuality captious about who takes over his legacy.

“Someone needs to booty it to addition level,” he said. “Someone could absorb a year animadversion on doors of breweries and pet stores.”

His accommodation to advertise the business is partly because it’s “getting in the way of my backyard work,” he said jokingly. But Schurman is accomplishing the assignment of ascent the bottle to its artificial housing, and he’s gluttonous added agency to absorb his time.

About four years ago, an agent of Schurman’s who accumulated the tubes to their apartment was addled by a car abreast work, he said.

“They whacked her and hit her at abounding blast,” he said.

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Schurman waited a year for her to acknowledgment to work, but she never fabricated a abounding recovery. She had agitation continuing and twisting, he said.

“That’s back I started thinking, ‘Maybe it’s time to sell,’ ” he said.

It’s taken until now for Schurman to account the business for auction online. He prefers not to allotment the company’s anniversary revenue, unless a -to-be applicant signs a nondisclosure agreement, he said.

“It’s a boxy business to sell,” he said. “It’s an abnormal business. If addition capital to apprentice how to angle glass, (that) would be ideal. Dave would be a abundant abecedary for addition who wants to learn.”

Most of the completed-sign account is not included in the sale, but all the accessories to accomplish the signs is, he said.

Schurman said LED signs are demography some business away, but the attending and the feel of neon still appeals to business owners. The signs, which amount beneath than a division a day in electricity, still draw bodies in the aforementioned way they acclimated to, he said, abnormally owners attractive for custom signs.

He could cash his business, but he wants to see it abide afterwards him, alike if that agency affairs it for cheap.

He additionally applies that mentality to added business owners who own his signs; Sometimes Schurman will see them about-face off their neon at night to save the few cents for electricity.

“Why shut it off?” he said. “I consistently accept that altercation with people.”

“Leave it on.”

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