In March of 2020 the nation was shaken with an unexpected pandemic resulting in several tragedies. One that hit Emporia especially hard was the closing of several businesses, large and small, to shut down. With people unable to leave their homes Emporia Main Street found a way to not only encourage shopping at small businesses once they reopened, but to provide people with a sense of normalcy.
In March of 2020 the first mural, a butterfly on the side of Troxy Gallery and Gifts at 729 Commercial Street. The butterfly and several other murals are the culmination of the efforts of several different small businesses in Emporia, Coffelt Signs and Emporia Main Street in particular.
“I think we're all looking for different things that we can do and socially distance--things that we can do outside,” said Jessica Buhholz, Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street. “And we really feel like the murals provide that opportunity. So you can take a stroll downtown... And then we also hope that through all of that, the folks that are visiting the murals will also take an opportunity to visit the stores that are around them.”
Kaila Mock, Trox owner, confirms the crowd of people the murals bring into small businesses including her own.
“I love the butterfly mural. It definitely brings more people into my business,” said Mock. “They come to get their photos taken with it, and then, you know, they'll walk by and look at my windows and be like, ‘Oh, let's stop in here.’”
Each mural displayed is made out of recyclable material. The creators wanted a mural that not only represented Emporia as a whole but also embodied sustainability, something Emporia Mainstreet and Coffelt Signs hold to an important standard.
“The cool thing about these, the material with these is it's recyclable,” said Stacy Hammond, owner of Coffelt Signs. “And that's something that's really important to the Main Street program…. So the products that we're using have a 12 to 18 month expected lifespan and when we remove them we just wad them up (and) put them in the recycle bin.”
The murals include different parts of the community that highlight Emporia as a whole such as ESU, FlintHills Tech, Emporia First Friday, disc golf, and Veteran’s Day.
“I'm glad that they use the paint palette to represent, you know, the vibrant arts culture in Emporia,” said Mock. “But I love that they have all the differences--ESU and the high school. And it seems like they just represented everything.”