When Mary Brown’s was deciding upon an appropriate way to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and their return to downtown St. John’s, they knew they wanted to do something big – three storeys big to be exact. And if you happen to stop outside their new, soon-to-be-open location at the corner of Water and Adelaide Streets, there’s not a chance you can miss it.
What used to be an empty, red brick wall is now a Where’s Waldo-esque world filled with scuba diving chickens, mer-moose and more. In one section, a drumstick-toting crab smiles next to a shark wearing a Hawaiian shirt (which is placed next to an actual walk-up window where late-night revellers can place their order after hours). Nearby, a giant squid roots through a treasure chest filled with gold coins. And up above, a happy sea monster swims near the Battery.
The mural is so chock-full of colourful characters it requires multiple viewings to spot them all. Local artist Kyle Bustin (who is also the artist behind the Scanlan’s Lane mural), with the help of fellow artists Reggie Winsor and Jordan Burton, spent about three weeks and over 200 hours bringing the whimsical scene to life. It’s a nod to the island’s nautical heritage, as well as a fitting tribute to Mary Brown’s Newfoundland roots.
The mural was officially unveiled on August 17 amongst a large group of Mary Brown’s corporate staff and franchisees, who came to St. John’s to help ring in the business’s 50th anniversary.
“A big part of it too is we wanted to say thank you to St. John’s, as our hometown, to give something back to the city and to the people – all Newfoundlanders in fact, who are brand ambassadors for Mary Brown’s,” says Darlene Giles, Creative Director with Mary Brown’s.
Being from St. John’s herself, Giles says she was familiar with the city’s existing murals, and the talent of the local arts community. So when the VP of Marketing suggested a mural for the new location, she was beyond thrilled. Mary Brown’s worked with Rooftop Agency of Toronto to make the project come together. Several artists submitted proposals, with Bustin ultimately being chosen.
“We wanted someone who could feel the energy of the city, the vibe of the city, and relate to what it means to be a Newfoundlander and to live in St. John’s,” Giles says.
“All four (proposals) that we saw were good, but Kyle’s just resonated. It was so colourful and so bright, and of course it speaks to the ocean and to St. John’s. There’s humour in it…we thought, ‘This is perfect.’”
As Bustin and his team worked on the piece, visitors and residents alike stopped to admire their work and take photos, sharing them on social media. The mural, Giles says, is a win-win all around.
“It’s a bright spot for St. John’s and of course, from a business perspective, it doesn’t hurt Mary Brown’s, that this is on the side of our building.”
The bright, beautiful and engaging piece, Giles says, appeals to people of all ages and adds to the vibrancy of the city. But this won’t be the only eye-popping artwork at the new location. Mary Brown’s has also commissioned local artist Julie Lewis to create a mural for the interior of the restaurant.
“Her talent is extraordinary too,” Giles adds.
According to a press release from Mary Brown’s, Lewis’ mural will capture “the nostalgia of growing up in St. John’s, playing on the sidewalks as children and living in the ‘jelly bean’ houses that line the streets.” People can view her work when the Water Street location opens in September. For now, they have Bustin’s and his team’s work to feast their eyes on.