West Portal Hardware Store Gutted By Fire Installs Temporary Mural

After a January 23 fire gutted three adjoining West Portal businesses, Papenhausen Hardware hired visual artist Aaron De La Cruz to paint a mural on its storefront. On Wednesday, the artist installed the artwork in a matter of hours. 

According to store manager Karl Aguilar, the temporary art is a way of thanking  the community for years of support. 

"People call us and we'll tell them where to get the best frozen yogurt or the movie times at the theater across the street," Aguilar told Hoodline. 

Papenhausen Hardware commissioned the mural to spare neighbors and customers the sight of a boarded-up storefront, said Aguilar.

Papenhausen Hardware manager Karl Aguilar. 

"People are upset," he said. "We needed to do something to tell people that we're still here and that we still care, and to say thank you for all the love and support we're still getting."

Plans are underway to auction the mural off when the store reopens, which Aguilar hopes will be in six months. The proceeds will go towards benefiting the local community, possibly the nearby West Portal playground, which is undergoing an upgrade, he said.

As Aguilar spoke to this reporter, several people stopped to ask when the store might reopen; many hugged the store manager before departing.

"I'm heartbroken," said area resident Gracie Mulcrevy. "This is my 'hood—I've lived here since 1971. I go in and they tell me what's going on in the neighborhood." 

"What motivated me to take this project on was the willingness and effort shown by Karl," De La Cruz told Hoodline. "I believe in giving people direct access to my work and I hope to deconstruct the painting and turn it into smaller paintings that we can engage the people within the community."

Aguilar's letter of thanks to the community.

After the store's owner and manager filled the artist in on Papenhausen's history, "we shared our common interest in serving people and the importance of community," said De La Cruz. "Due to my schedule we had 48 hours from the time I received the email to complete the project, and we made it happen."  

To give the artist a canvas, Aguilar stayed up until 2am the night before the mural was created to cover the storefront with plywood.

Aguilar said insurance will cover his salary and the salaries of store employees, who he hopes will return when the store reopens. SFGate reported that each affected business is eligible to receive up to $10,000 in disaster-relief funds.

After De La Cruz finished the mural, Aguilar flanked it with letters of thanks to the firefighters who put out the blaze and to the community for its love and support.

"Now that this is done we can take a six-month break and figure out how we'll cut the mural and frame it," Aguilar said. "We didn't do this for ourselves—I don't want people to come by and be sad."

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West portal hardware store gutted by fire installs temporary mural