By Kae Lani Kennedy, Foodable Contributor
“Cafes are more than coffee and sandwiches – they’re an environment. So it’s the environment that you create that sets your café apart from others,” said Kate Egan, co-founder and painter of Buck and Eagle Windows, an artistic duo creating custom murals for business and residential windows. Sitting next to a mural of Aslan, the lion from the “Chronicles of Narnia,” at Milk & Honey located just north of South Street in the South Street Headhouse District, I could see why more and more businesses are following suite, using creative window displays to draw the interest of customers.
A Cafe's Atmosphere is As Equally Important as the Food
In a city inundated with coffee shops, the “environment” is one of the most differentiating components, and is essential to creating a loyal customer following. Since many cafes serve as an extension of people’s homes, often becoming a workspace for freelancers and remote workers, a café’s environment has to be both comfortable but also conducive to creativity. Many cafes achieve this by incorporating chalkboard art, gallery installations, whimsical décor elements and retro furniture into their spaces. But several years ago, Buck and Eagle Windows’ founders and painters, Egan and Annabelle Buck, discovered a game changing window display: custom designed window murals.
How the Murals First Started
During the holiday season of 2012, they were asked to use their illustration and painting skills to create a winter themed mural for Milk & Honey. “We went a little overboard,” said Buck. The ornate wintery forest scene with detailed wildlife and delicately painted snow covered evergreens did not go unnoticed. During a season that is normally slow for the café, Egan and Buck noticed a spike in customers, leading to steady sales during a month where sales normally slump. Customers new and old were not just coming to the café, but staying longer, making it a point to sit in the front room, close to the mural, rather than in the quiet space in the back. A few customers wanted to recreate the feeling that they experienced in the café and invited the pair to design festive murals for their private homes. After the first year’s success and positive customer feedback, Egan and Buck painted a second window mural during the next holiday season, entered the South Street Headhouse District Window Wonderland competition, and won first place.
To kick off their third season this year at Milk & Honey, Buck and Eagle Windows painted scenes from the classic C. S. Lewis fantasy “The Chronicles of Narnia.” “Our goal is to create a whole new world,” said Egan. “You’re not just going into a restaurant or café. We strive to paint murals that bring you into a scene.” Incorporating the characters the White Witch, Aslan, Mr. Tumnus and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the vivid snowy landscape makes walking into this Milk & Honey feel like walking through the novel’s infamous wardrobe.
The Advantages of Window Murals For Restaurants
After several years of success, businesses are now beginning to recognize the benefits of investing in window murals as a way to draw attention and intrigue potential customers. To Egan and Buck, it is a more contemporary version of the classic wall murals that can often be found in restaurants. “A wall mural of an Italian countryside can set a nice atmosphere for diners at an Italian restaurant,” said Buck. "Paintings like that even become a staple to the restaurant, but over the years, it can become dated and go unnoticed. Window murals are more fluid and ephemeral. They can change with the seasons and the business can have a constantly changing and evolving mural.”
Window murals are not limited to the holiday season. Designs for Scandinavian prints for Nordic cuisine restaurants, whimsical teapots and Victorian style teacups for tearooms, and flowery rolling hills for Springtime are in the works – and eager fans of Buck and Eagle Windows cannot wait to experience what environments they will create next.