Application Spotlight: Good Eats in San Diego

By Denise M. Gustavson

Ad agency Bex Brands helped restaurateurs Brian Malarkey and James Brennan create window displays for their two restaurants, Searsucker and Burlap. Searsucker, established in 2010, was opened by television’s celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, host of TLC’s Mega Bites and Bravo Top Chef finalist, and James Brennan, majority partner of Stingaree nightclub and initial developer of many of San Diego’s nightclubs and lounges. According to Becky Nelson, partner at Bex Brands, Searsucker’s window display—the same one they had used since their grand opening—was in need of repair. “They needed a more permanent display that would give viewers an idea of the attitude—or lack thereof—inside Searsucker,” said Nelson.

The most difficult part of the job was getting the right images. “The people of Searsucker are jokesters. A lot of their materials poke fun at themselves and everything around them. This was inspired by old photos taken in Tijuana of people on donkeys,” said Nelson. “Finding the proper stock images was our biggest challenge. We found one with the background, one with the donkey, one with a guy on a horse, and had a headshot taken of Brian Malarkey—the head chef—to compose the shot.”

Working with Freeform Graphics, a San Diego-based PSP, Bex Brands spent three months working to develop the concept for Searsucker’s window graphics. According to Nelson, Freeform was instrumental in the project. “They helped us choose the materials to enhance the antique flavor of the concept,” said Nelson. Using an HP printer, Freeform printed the images on artist canvas and then sewed pole pockets on the top and bottom of the graphics to they could be displayed in the window using dowels.

For Burlap, Malarkey and Brennan wanted a different flair—“Asian Cowboy”. Bex wanted to create a “big splash with a little mystery” for the new restaurant, since it had not opened yet. “Inspiration came from the Asian meat markets that hang Peking ducks in the window. The restaurant describes itself as Asian cowboy, and has a large, red rotisserie in the middle, so there is a direct correlation between the window and restaurant space,” said Nelson.

The most difficult part of the project was finding authentic looking meat props. “We looked everywhere, from taxidermists to Halloween specialists,” said Nelson. They were finally able to come up with a source—DapperCadaver in Sun Valley, CA. After securing the props, they worked with Make Fabrication to build the metal structure and Freeform Graphics for the wall vinyls and various cling film graphics. Everything was printed with a Roland printer on adhesive vinyl with a matte lamination.

The window graphics will be on display for the next three years.