The Dixie Diner and the Dixie Service Garage are the latest additions to Homewood’s Southgate area.
No, they are not new businesses. They are giant murals painted on the brick walls on the east and west sides of Dixie Highway at 187th Street.
The murals are the latest pieces by artist Richard Haas, whose work can also be found in larger metropolitan areas, such as New York City, Washington, DC, Fort Worth and even Melbourne, Australia.
“The Southgate murals will help unify the two business districts and provide Southgate with a cultural attraction,” said Rachael Jones, public relations and special events manager for the Village of Homewood.
After spending the past four years looking at a dull, drab brick wall, owner Dane Hartmann says he is “really excited” about the new murals. Hartmann believes the 40s-style Dixie Service Garage going up by his shop will help his business.
“We get new people coming in here all the time, some have lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and never knew Pete’s was here,” Hartmann said. “The mural will catch people’s eye, especially those coming from the south, and they will see us. People are already saying, ‘Hey, did you see that mural on Dixie and 187th by Pete’s Auto Service?’”
What helps make the murals so eye-catching is the technique Haas utilizes called trompe l'oeil, which involves extremely realistic imagery and creates a 3D effect.
“The murals, which are paid for with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, are an effort between the building owners, the tenants, the village and the artist,” Jones said. "They create an attraction and when people come into town to see them and spend more time in the area, they will patronize more businesses."
The Southgate murals and a third new mural due to be started soon behind Melody Mart, are all scheduled to be done by the end of the year, according to Jones said. A previous mural of the old Homewood Theater used to exist behind Melody Mart. The new one will be music related.
Haas’ other murals can be seen in downtown Homewood on the back and sides of shops along Ridge, Martin and Harwood. The most recent to be completed is a conservatory filled with tropical plants on the side of .
To showcase the Haas collection, the Homewood Art Council will be organizing mural walks, Jones said. In addition, Jones said the Village will host a mural tour during the Holiday Lights Tour on Dec. 2 and will host spring and summer tours as well.