"What happened to the old Felix sign when Uchi moved in?"
This is the question I was asked on a near daily basis when Tyson Cole's chic Austin import opened this past January in the old building which housed Felix Mexican Restaurant for over 60 years.
"Can you find out where the sign went?" people asked me, aggrieved at the idea that it was collecting dust (or, worse, rust) in a storage facility somewhere, unloved and forgotten.
I could not tell them, though; Uchi remained mum about the whereabouts of the iconic Felix sign that showed a sleeping man wearing a sombrero, dozing away underneath a cactus. Mum until yesterday, that is, when Uchi announced that it was auctioning off the sign for charity -- but in three separate parts.
"Our Uchi family is proud to offer this iconic sign up to benefit Mr. Tijerina's favorite charity, LULAC, an organization he led, supported and believed in for so many years," said owner Tyson Cole in a press release that listed the specifics of an eBay auction beginning this week.
The sign has been subdivided, as it were, to maximize potential profit for LULAC and is being sold thusly:
Auction No. 1: Side one of the Felix sign, in two parts that reads: "Felix Mexican Restaurant." This portion of the sign is ten feet across.
Auction No. 2: Side two of the Felix sign, also in two parts, that reads "Felix Mexican Restaurant." This portion of the sign is also ten feet across.
Auction No. 3: Two-sided "el hombre que duerme en sombrero" (man sleeping in sombrero) image from the sign, which is being sold as one piece.
The starting bid for all three pieces is $1,500 each, and they are sold in "as-is" condition. The winning bidder will need to pick up his sign(s) and Uchi isn't paying to transport it either: "Any expenses related to reassembling the sign, handling, delivery or installation are assumed by the purchaser," stated the press release.
Proceeds from the auction will directly benefit The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), an organization committed to "advancing the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population in the United States." Felix Tijerina, the owner of Felix Mexican Restaurant until his death in 1969, served as president for four separate terms as president of LULAC.
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"Tijerina's story is a study in assimilation. His mission was to help Mexican-Americans merge into the American mainstream as successfully as he had," wrote former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh of Felix and his restaurant. "Early Mexican restaurants like Felix's were among the first institutions where urban Anglos and Hispanics rubbed elbows."
And now a little piece of Tex-Mex history can be yours -- but don't think for a minute that those signs will go for anywhere near $1,500 each. All three auctions end this Sunday, December 2.