Lupie: Lost sign found near Matthews likely not one that Hugo blew away

Missing Lupie Cafe sign found in Matthews.
Missing Lupie Cafe sign found in Matthews. COURTESY OF LARKIN DURAN

Part of the mystery of how a missing wooden sign from Lupie’s Cafe on Charlotte’s Monroe Road got to a Matthew creekside 10 miles away may have been solved.

It’s probably not the sign swept away by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, as cafe owner Lupie Duran first thought and the Observer reported last week.

That sign is still missing.

Duran, recuperating from two broken feet, said Saturday she read the Observer story before getting on a treadmill at her physical therapy on Friday.

All she had was time to think and suddenly remembered that a second sign – identical to the first and the current ones – went missing in the early 1990s. That happened after a “drunk lady” lost control of her car late one night and ran over the sign pole, then smacked it into the side of her building.

The sign and building caught fire. Nearby firefighters rushed to the cafe and quickly put out the fire.

The next day, the sign – shaped like a soup cup – was gone, the cafe’s second one since Duran opened Lupie’s in 1987.

“It was laying around on the ground, and someone made off with it,” Duran said. “When I was told the sign had been found, all I could think it was the sign that was missing from Hurricane Hugo. But on that treadmill, it suddenly dawned on me that, no, it was that sign that caught fire after that drunk lady smacked my building.”

Indeed, the sign’s lower left corner appears to be charred.

It was found last week by a friend of one of Duran’s waitresses, Jennifer Brown, while she was jogging on a Matthews greenway. It was sitting by the creek and the friend called Lupie’s to say she’d found it.

Brown retrieved the sign and brought it back to the cafe.

It’s is now in the basement in reasonably good shape after being gone for more than 20 years. Chunks of the top are missing, and the lower left corners appears burned, but the paint that remains is not faded or chipped.

Yet the question still remains: How did the sign get to that Matthews creek?

“Whoever picked up that sign, I don’t know what they did with it,” Duran said. “Obviously they had it somewhere where it was preserved. How it ended up in the water 10 miles away, I do not know.”

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061

Know what happened?

Do you know more about what happened to the Lupie’s Cafe sign? Email David Perlmutt at dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.com, or Clayton Hanson at chanson@charlotteobserver.com.