Auburn man who leases spaces for ‘Genesee Beer’ sign explains why some lights are out: Your Stories

Local News

AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Mike Speno owns an iconic music store in Downtown Auburn, but he might be even better known for the “Genesee Beer” sign that sits four stories up.

That notoriety comes with complaints.

For 67 years, Speno’s family has leased the space to the Genesee Beer company for the sign.

People have called the Your Stories line, complaining that chunks of the sign’s lights are out, making some letters not completely lit.

Speno tells NewsChannel 9, “I get tons of Facebook comments, emails to the store, asking, ‘When are we going to restore this? Is this going be ready for tourist season? Is it going to be ready for the upcoming Christmas season?’ I wish it was ready now.”

Speno says the outages are caused by birds who chew through the rope-style lighting and wiring.

While it’s not his job to maintain the sign, it’s his mission to make sure it happens.

Speno suggests that the wires be protected by a conduit or tube, but he can’t get in touch with the people who can actually fix it.

Speno says, “I wish that some of the people here in town, instead of emailing me, would forward that on to Genesee Specialty Products and tell them what the sign means to the community. They’ve already heard it from me.”

The Genesee Beer spokesperson got back to NewsChannel 9 not long after the first email to the company.

The brand director for the Genesee Family, Janine Schoos, writes:

“We really appreciate the pride Auburn takes in the iconic Genesee Beer and Ale sign. We are extremely proud to be the oldest brewery in New York state. When we first found out that the sign had gone dark for 40 years, we invested heavily to repair and re-light it. When that happened, we also took on a new advertising fee from the City and new leasing, advertising and electricity fees from the building’s owner. The annual fees, along with birds continuing to eat through the wires, make it difficult to continue to invest in maintaining it short-term. For context, last year, we completed a critical investment to modernize the Genesee Brewery to sustain and grow the business for the 550 people who work there and love Genesee Beer. We work in a highly competitive industry where many breweries like ours have closed. The good news is that we have slowly begun to breathe new life into Genesee for the next generation of beer drinkers. Please bear with us as we focus first on building up our foundation. As more people drink Genesee, more funds will become available for important projects like this. Thank you to everyone in Auburn for your patience and allowing Genesee to be part of your skyline.”

Janine Schoos, Brand Manger for Genesee Beer

Exactly eight years ago, the entire sign was refurbished and re-lit after decades of darkness. The old system was replaced with new wiring and LED bulbs, unprotected from the elements.

This story started with calls to the Your Story team. Call 315-446-9900 or email

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