Crank Tools Building Gets Eclectic New Lease on Life

By on July 14, 2017

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Twenty years ago, a 16-year-old Nick Akerberg needed an abandoned building to host an illegal rave for the cool kids in his Clayton High School cohort.

Today, the same building he aspired to throw a wild party in is his business headquarters.

Akerberg and his newly minted driver’s license got lost roaming the city in 1996 and stumbled into the former Missouri Jewelite Sign Co. building at 3562 Market Street. What used to be the most prominent corner of the city — at the juncture of Grand Boulevard and Market Street — in the late 1940s had long stood empty and forgotten.

The embattled building became a casualty of modern highway construction in the early ’60s. First came the ramp elevating Grand, and then came Highway 40 (Interstate 64). The building now rests in the elbow of the Highway 40 eastbound exit ramp for Grand, but it’s no longer accessible from Grand or Market. You can only approach the building from its rear entrance off Bernard Street.

The building is now most notable as the perch of the giant neon Anheuser-Busch eagle advertisement and Budweiser sign, an iconic St. Louis fixture since 1962. Mounting the sign, which originally was displayed on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, appears to have been the last act of the Missouri Jewelite Sign Co. before leaving the building, which has been vacant for decades.

Akerberg ended up partying with a couple of hundred teenagers at another abandoned warehouse on Washington Avenue in 1996, but he remained captivated by the strange structure encircled by a highway exit ramp.

After earning an economics degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spending more than 10 years working in Las Vegas, he moved back to St. Louis with his terminally ill wife, Emily, also a St. Louis native, to seek treatment locally. Akerberg started working with his dad, Jan, developing tools and gadgets overseas for interested parties.

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