‘Ghost signs’ bringing life to Eden

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EDEN, N.C. -- Normally Brandon Hardison can be found painting inside of his warm Rockingham County studio. But on a cool December day, Hardison said he doesn't mind being outside.

"You spend a lot of time by yourself and you get tired of that," Hardison said. "So it's a good change of pace to get out of the studio, get outdoors."

His latest project is a part of a larger movement. Faded Coca-Cola signs, or "ghost signs" like the one Hardison is painting, are coming back to life across the South. With each stroke of the paint brush, the familiar, red and white of a Coca-Cola bottle are again on full display in the Draper section of Eden.

"People drive by and stop and honk their horn, 'Looking good,' that's rewarding," Hardison said.

Brandon is not doing the work alone. He is getting help from his wife Amy, who grew up in Eden. So this project means a lot to her.

"Being able to be a part of the community again and bring the energy back is really important because a lot of people have pride in this area," Amy Hardison said.

Freshening the nearly 50-year-old advertisement goes beyond giving Draper a new look. The artwork is a jumping off point for a new future.

"It's exciting. Eden has seen some tough times since the recession," Main Street Manager Randy Hunt said "To see the revitalization, it's a prime time to be here. I am excited to be a part of the process."

Along with two repainted murals in the Draper section of Eden, Hunt said there are plans to build a small park where a café and jewelry store once stood. So if the City of Eden is showing interest in Draper, Hunt feels businesses will do the same. Hunt is also looking at Draper's location. This section of Eden is about six miles away from the 3500-acre Berry Hill Industrial Park.

"When these businesses come in, this is the closest area for them to eat and bank," Hunt said. "Everything you can imagine an industrial park needing will be here."

And Amy Hardison is glad that she is a part of a plan that will revitalize an old advertisement and her town.

"It's just the start," Hardison said. "I think this is a good way to get things moving and we are excited about where it goes."