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    Signs of the Times

    Hershey unveils retail store in Times Square, Coca-Cola fans in the dark regarding future plans

    NEW YORK -- In a rare shakeup of the flashy signage in Times Square, New York, two of the industry's major suppliers this week have made sudden changes sure to impact what New Yorkers and New Year's Eve revelers see at the famous district this holiday season.

    Hershey Foods yesterday heralded the opening of its first-ever retail store in Times Square by lighting the store's 15-story sign last night, accompanied by music and ceremony at an outdoor stage on 48th Street. Joey Fatone, a member of the singing group N*snyc and now a star of the Broadway hit "Rent," served as master of ceremonies.

    The store will open its doors to the public in December, and will hold a grand opening near Valentine's Day, said Wynn Willard, chief marketing officer and senior vice president at Hershey Foods Corp. "We are thrilled to be opening Hershey's flagship store in New York's Times Square - combining the beloved, traditional icons of Hershey's with the 21st century of Times Square, gateway to the world," he said.

    Also this week, Coca-Cola suddenly darkened their 11-year old sign in Times Square and began to dismantle the thousands of light bulbs, 42 foot-tall fiberglass Coke bottle, mile of neon tubing and 60 miles of fiber-optic cable that made up the 55-ton sign.

    Although the dismantling will be complete by November, the company has not announced if a replacement will be up in time for Dick Clark's annual Rockin New Year's Eve Special.

    The next generation of Coke display, which the company is also carefully guarding, will be the sixth since the company put up its first billboard in Times Square in 1920. A Coke sign has occupied the lower tier of 2 Times Square since 1932; the current lease continues until 2011.

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