IT once stood watch over Andytown from its perch above the Andersonstown Leisure Centre but now the famed 'A' sign — thought lost when the ALC was demolished — has reemerged; 6,000 miles to the west of West Belfast.
And the wayward sign's new location is very much a home-from-home as it now adorns the ceiling of the Andytown café in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district where husband-and-wife team Mickey McCrory and Lauren Crabbe hold court.
The one-time West Belfast landmark will now welcome visitors to the sixth café of the Andytown Roasters Coffee chain, set to open in early September after a refit.
"I saw in the news that they were going to build a new leisure centre so I asked my ma (Therese Magill) to go down and ask the workers if they would give it to her," says Mickey. "To give them their due, they took it down gently and I had friends put it in storage."
Sawn in half, put on pallets and flown halfway around the world, the storied sign has been reborn as the centrepiece of the refurbished Andytown Roasters Coffee outlet in San Francisco's popular Sunset neighbourhood, just yards from the Pacific Ocean.
"I firmly believe that inanimate objects carry a great energy from past experiences," says Mickey. "So can you imagine what this sign has witnessed or what it represented to so many people? Think of the suffering — but also the moments of great joy — that took place in its shadow. I'm just delighted that we saved it from the wrecking ball and that it has a new lease of life here in a place which is very much still a part of Andytown even if we are 6,000 miles away."
To emphasise that point, the apex of the A points to Mecca – aka Andersonstown.
We are OPEN in Menlo Park!— Andytown Coffee Roasters (@AndytownSF) May 27, 2023
Thank you to B, Kevin, and our amazing opening team at Menlo for making our cafe dreams come true!
We’ll be open every day starting from today.
6/5-on: 7AM-5PM pic.twitter.com/0iTjtkbzoS
On Saturday past, when this reporter called to the Outer Sunset location of the Andytown Roasters empire, a constantly refreshing queue formed at the vending truck parked outside the café until renovations are completed. In a city where coffee has god-like status, the Andytown Roasters have earned themselves a reputation the envy of café-owners across the Golden Gate City.
"The vast majority of people who come here don't know where or what Andytown is but by using the name of the area that shaped me, I want them to know that it's a place with real authenticity and meaning, an authenticity and meaning that is also at the core of the Andytown Coffee Roasters experience."