Ralph Kazarian is gone, but his sign still lives on.
Photo By Norma Lopez Molina
Q: Why does the Ralph Kazarian insurance sign remain up on a building at Mills Avenue and Colonial Drive, even though his office closed years ago?
A: Kazarian, a well-known local name in car insurance for high-risk drivers, operated out of the building for more than three decades. Longtime Orlandoans remember the agent’s bare-bones TV commercials that started out with the sound of screeching tires and a crash, followed by Kazarian looking solemnly into the camera and saying, “That auto accident you just heard could be you!’’ (You can check out a couple of the spots on YouTube.)
At one time, the oddly shaped building at Mills and Colonial, featuring a breezeway and a towering outside wall, was painted a garish red and blue and featured a huge billboard. That sign was replaced by a more conventional plastic one, which is still on the now-beige structure, even though the insurance business left the location within a couple years of Kazarian’s death in 2006. Answer Man thought that perhaps the landlords decided to leave the sign intact as a nod to nostalgia. But it remains up only because it’s too expensive to take down, says To-Lan Trinh-Le, one of the partners of Uptown Orlando, the group that owns the building. Several tenants have occupied the space since the Kazarian business left, including a nail salon and, until a few months ago, the Orlando-area re-election team for President Obama.
Trinh-Le envisions replacing the sign with a classy electronic one she says could promote local businesses or community events. But that would take substantial cash, not to mention a design that would have to comply with city sign ordinances. So for now, the Kazarian name and the image of the gruff cop ticketing the fender-bending motorist remains.
Q: Who thought up Fifth Third as a name for a bank?
A: Although Orlando residents probably uttered a collective “Huh?’’ when Fifth Third Bank came to town seven years ago, Ohioans had been familiar with the odd name for a century.
The story of how Fifth Third got its name isn’t unusual—two Cincinnati banks, Fifth National and Third National, merged back in 1908.What’s interesting is the name that the bank’s founding fathers didn’t choose—Third Fifth. Although it would be more than a decade before Prohibition laws were passed, anti-alcohol sentiment was in full swing at the turn of the century, and Answer Man is seven-eighths to nine-tenths sure that nobody with corporate wanted the bank’s name to conjure up images of a liquor bottle.
Answer Man welcomes your questions about the Orlando area. Send queries to email@example.com