The City of Murals added to its collection for the first time in three years earlier this month when Kennewick artist Don Brown completed an 11-foot-tall by 20-foot-wide mural on the façade of Blue Sky Market.
The mural, painted on the side of the local landmark at 116 Chehalis Ave., features the original owners of the property, Bob and Agnes Campbell, back when then store was called Campbell’s Grocery.
The 1938 photograph featured in the mural was brought to life by Brown, who worked with the Toppenish Mural Society and the Campbells’ son, Paul, to get the project underway this summer.
“The picture we used is of the grand opening, and it shows all of the flowers that people in town gave them to celebrate their new business,” said Paul Campbell, a longtime Toppenish resident who grew up in a house across the street from the market.
The new mural also features fresh produce, some dry goods and an old Ford that was “always parked outside” in the 1930s and ‘40s. The image also shows Mr. and Mrs. Campbell standing in front of the store, wearing their work aprons.
“My dad was 24 and my mom was 25 when they built the store, and they put every penny they had into that place,” Paul Campbell said of the original 25-by-25-foot space. “They used to live in an apartment attached to the store, but they eventually remodeled and turned the apartment into a storage room.”
The market, owned by Mike and Janet Mayer since 1996, has been remodeled and added onto numerous times, including a significant addition in 2000 when the couple built the laundromat next door.
The Mayers say the community response to the new mural has been extremely positive.
“We’ve been getting a lot of comments from people who remember the store back in those days,” said Janet Mayer, who also serves on the Toppenish Mural Society board. “They love to talk about the history of the store and learn new details. That has been a lot of fun.”
Mayer also praised the artist, Brown, for his willingness to engage Blue Sky customers in conversation about the project this summer.
“Don was just fantastic to work with,” she said. “He is easy to talk to, but he’s also willing and able to answer questions about the murals. People walking by would want to talk, and he would also stop what he was doing to help them.”
Conversations are already taking place between Brown and the Mural Society to complete two additional murals at Blue Sky Market. The goal is to show some of the construction progression over time, and Campbell has provided some additional photographs as inspiration.
Mayer said the next two murals may involve the return of the community’s signature event, Mural-In-A-Day, which last took place in 2018. A mural touch-up day was held in June 2019, but the past two years have been canceled due to the pandemic.
“COVID has caused a lot of issues the past couple of years, but we are planning to keep going with new murals as soon as we can,” Mayer said. “The fact that there’s been a store here for 83 years has a lot of historical value, and we want to do whatever we can to keep our local history alive.”
The Campbell’s Grocery mural is (unofficially) the city’s 75th installment, but more paintings are certain to follow as long as the Mural Society continues to draw interest and donations.
Mayer said the organization is currently focused on repairing a number of existing murals and applying protective coatings over the artwork so they will last. Volunteers performed repairs on three of the murals this summer, touching up fading colors and painting over graffiti.
They are hoping to apply more protective coatings this fall, but, as Mayer points out, that costs money.
“Labor and materials are both very expensive, and we rely heavily on donations so we can keep all of these beautiful pieces alive,” she said. “The Mural Society wants to keep progressing because this is our history and we’re all very proud of it.”
If you are interested in donating to the Mural Society, call the Toppenish Chamber of Commerce at 509-865-3262 or stop by 504 S. Elm St. during business hours.