Looks like Oak Forest, Ill., has a heart after all.
Updating a story we wrote in July 2007, it appears the village of Oak Forest has granted a variance to the sign ordinance that forced King Heating and Air Conditioning's trademark tin man off the building’s roof four years ago.
At the time, King Heating owner Tim Willson claimed the village was demanding the tin man stay grounded after he had removed him for some minor restoration work -- and perhaps a bit of oil for his rusty joints. Oak Forest officials said the upgrades Willson was performing on his building’s exterior eliminated his grandfather status and meant the tin man would have to be relocated.
Willson said Oak Forest was fining his longtime business $200,000 - a charge village officials denied when I spoke to them for our story.
But he fought back, enlisting the support of neighborhood residents and more than a few TV stations and newspapers as he sought to save what many called a community icon. Seeing the humor in the situation and its media appeal, almost every interview with Willson included a reference to the “Wizard of Oz.”
He eventually lost his battle with city - even the great and powerful Oz could not help him - but the tin man’s rooftop "funeral" attracted heavy Chicago-area media coverage as well as protesters dressed as “Dorothy,” “Scarecrow” and other characters from the well-known novel and film.
But the issue, like the tin man, was not dead. After months of discussions, a newly shined up tin man returned to its perch in a May 7 ceremony that showed Willson hasn’t forgotten how to use the media to his company’s advantage. Customers were treated to pizza, beverages and one last chance to get an up-close picture with sheet metal mascot while he still had both feet on the ground.
For King Heating and its tin man, there really is no place like home - especially if that home is a roof.