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‘Live Poultry, Fresh Killed’ sign stays local after East Cambridge Business Association buys it at auction

The sign — and trademark rights to its image — sold for more than $20,000 on Thursday outside the butcher shop.

Mayflower Poultry is moving out of the area and auctioned off its famous sign, "Live Poultry, Fresh Killed."David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

An East Cambridge landmark isn’t flying far from its coop.

The East Cambridge Business Association purchased the cherished — yet slightly macabre — “Live Poultry, Fresh Killed” sign during a competitive auction outside of Mayflower Poultry Co. on Thursday afternoon, assuring that it will stick around in the area as it has for decades.

The price tag? A combined $22,500 for both the sign and the trademark rights for its image.

“What a wild ride!!! We Won!!!,” the business association, which promotes neighborhood commerce, wrote on Facebook following the auction.

Prior to the auction, the group said it wanted the sign because it is “Such [a] great symbol of Cambridge [Street] and the small business community.”

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Jim Gould, owner of the butcher shop, announced the sale of the sign earlier this month, as he prepared to move his business from a storefront just outside of Inman Square to a new location in Boston’s Newmarket Square.

The building, which was also home to a mattress store that closed during the pandemic, sold for $5 million in May, according to Middlesex County property records. Gould’s new headquarters will not have a retail operation, and he didn’t want the sign to waste away in storage, far from the public eye.

In an e-mail, Gould said he was “super psyched” that the East Cambridge Business Association, a hometown group, had the winning bid.

“Very glad it’ll be staying in the [neighborhood],” he said, “and I know the neighbors are really happy about it too, so just great all the way around.”

A portion of the proceeds from the sale — roughly $2,500 — will be donated by Gould to Food For Free, a charitable organization in Cambridge.

“So, really happy about that too,” he added.

Jason Alves, executive director of the East Cambridge Business Association, said the competition at Thursday’s auction was fierce. A small group gathered outside the butcher shop, eager to take home the sign, which is roughly 6 feet tall, and 5 feet wide.

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Alves said the bidding started at $7,000, a number tossed out by an anonymous buyer on the phone who was calling from outside Massachusetts. From there, it continued to climb.

“People were [bidding] online, people were on the phone, and then there were people who were present,” said Alves, who was bidding on behalf of the association. “There was also a decent crowd in front of Mayflower just watching.”

In the end, Alves emerged the victor.

“I don’t think anyone had any clue it would go for that much money,” he said, laughing. “It was a whirlwind of a day.”

Alves said the feat would not have been possible without the help of Riverside Properties Inc., which purchased the parcel where Mayflower Poultry is located; and various members of the association.

“They deserve some credit for making this happen,” he said. “It was a culmination of lots of businesses coming together and recognizing the significance of the sign, and trying to make it work. It was a good day all around.”

As for the sign’s future, Alves said there’s more work to do. But he’s already reached out to Cambridge officials to express interest in getting the glaring slogan with its chicken silhouette put up somewhere in public, so it can continue live on.

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“Hopefully people feel like it’s in good hands and we’ll take care of it, and we’ll do what we can to make sure it gets back out there,” he said. “This is a symbol of the small business community on Cambridge Street. ... It’s rich in our history.”

Alves said people can also expect to see some new merchandise featuring the image, since the association also now owns the trademark rights. (Gould has long sold T-shirts and hats bearing the logo).

“There will be new T-shirts for sale pretty soon,” he said.

Alves, the business association, and Gould weren’t the only ones who were pleased to keep the sign in an area it’s long called home.

In response to the association’s Instagram post about winning the sign, City Councilor Alanna Mallon chimed in, replying, “yassssss!!!!!” in a comment and punctuating the message with a series of joyous raised-hand emojis.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him @steveannear.