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Neon Classics

Artist Vince DiMella puts his illuminating touch on San Diego's most iconic neighborhood signs

By Danielle Allaire



In June of 2020, Vince DiMella’s 28 years of Fletcher Cove surf sessions finally paid off—literally. Those years spent running with his surfboard under the kitsch-meets-classic, hot pink Solana Beach sign that led to the waves below, gave him an idea for a new business venture.

Miniaturize San Diego neighborhood signs.

The kind that would sit in homes as plugged-in, mantlepiece décor. With this illuminating idea, the local artist and entrepreneur’s latest company, Category6LED, was born. His new venture would pay homage to San Diego’s iconic neighborhood signs by turning them into miniature, glowing versions of themselves that locals can display in their homes.

With these scaled-down versions (most signs are about half-a-foot by two feet) came the need for a different kind of technology. Neon is breakable and expensive. So, DiMella opted for the more energy-efficient and affordable medium of LED in order to make the right curves and angles to do our city art justice.



“I didn’t invent or create LED. I just found a different way to use it and utilize it in an artistic way,” DiMella admits. A reasonable price point is also important to DiMella, with the signs ranging from $125 to $160 each.

Before Category6LED, DiMella spent time building brands in the surf industry, working to “put [his] own creative flavor on them.” That kind of creative thinking earned him the epithet of inventor. Prior to the overwhelming popularity of these signs, his most high-profile invention to date was a drink coaster made of neoprene (think koozie but coaster)—a nod to his wetsuit surf uniform—which he sold to Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi.

“That was my first real experience of taking something that no one has ever done before,” he muses.

And the novelty shows no signs of wearing off. DiMella’s signs, which he designs then are built by outside manufacturers, are sold in a bevy of stores stretching from the Cedros Design District at SOLO to Hillcrest’s DiTorr Local Artists.

If you purchase his products online, though, 15 percent of every sale purchased is given back to the sign’s community. From the San Dieguito school system in North County to Little Italy beautifications and the Normal Heights mural project, DiMella has signed many checks to each of the communities he works with. He’s proud to say, “if you do good things… then, things happen.”



Starting with the original, and often sold out, Solana Beach sign, Category6LED now has 14 San Diego neighborhood signs in their Iconic Community Collection, ranging from Carlsbad to Kensington. But he won’t stop there.

Custom orders are his latest niche. DiMella gushes that he gets “probably four/five emails from people a week, where people are, like, ‘Do Laramie, Wyoming or […] Massachusetts!” Though he has yet to create those bespoke signs, Park City, Santa Monica, Portland, Oregon and Haleiwa, O’ahu have been added to his arsenal, allowing civic ex-pats and those outside of San Diego to join in on the fun.

DiMella solidifies his future plans by declaring, “Can we expand? Of course.”

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