Up, Up and Away

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Up, Up and Away

FORT WORTH, Texas -- One Lone Star state retailer is taking his store to new heights -- literally.

Jake James, an accomplished hairstylist who's turning an old gas station near the city's Cultural District into a convenience store, deli and one-chair hair salon, on Wednesday hoisted a single-engine two-seater plane on top of a 20-foot steel pole as part of the remodeling effort, according to a report by the Star-Telegram.

James had faced a rather bumpy takeoff with the city of Fort Worth. City code officers made him cut off the top of the cockpit and trim the vertical part of the tail.
The problems began about two months ago when James parked his plane outside the long-closed Shamrock station on Montgomery Street, across from the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Before then, the plane had hung from the ceiling of a theater James owns near the courthouse square in Tyler, Texas.

While it was OK for the plane to hang in the lobby of the Tyler theater, it was not OK for it to be parked on the lot, which James recently bought. The city's code compliance department -- alerted by a man who lives near the old station -- quickly fired off two letters to James, the newspaper said.

"You can't park a plane there," James said he was told by Fort Worth code officers. He was cited for "improperly storing things outside," and was told he had about 10 days to cart off the aircraft or be fined $2,000 for each day that he was in violation.

James did as he was told. Then, he got a city sign permit three weeks ago that allowed him to return the plane to Montgomery Street, with the understanding that he would tether the 2,000 pounds of metal and flying parts on top of the pole within 90 days.

But he didn't act fast enough. Before long, another city official, this time from the sign regulations division, was back at the old Shamrock. He was joined by David Berning, the resident who first complained about the plane. Berning calls the plane "junk, salvage."

James disagrees. "To me, it's art and I'm in an art-cultural district," he said.

James' art, however, was nine inches too tall to meet city specifications, so he sawed off the tail and the top of the cockpit. Alex Southern of the Fort Worth Code Ordinance Department said it appears James has now satisfied all requirements to keep his plane where it is, although some neighbors are still "pretty irate" about it, the report said.

Up the street, Berning and his wife, Karen, seem resigned to the fact that the craft with trash-can turbines will be a permanent part of their neighborhood's landscape. "If it meets the code requirements, so be it," David Berning told the Star-Telegram.

It might even make sense if James is hoping a conversation piece will bring in business, Karen Berning said. "If he's looking for a landmark to get people to come," she said, "I guess an airplane on a stick will do it."