LANGHORNE >> The area’s newest mural is taking shape on the wall of a legacy business on West Maple Avenue in Middletown Township just outside of Langhorne Borough.
Artist Tony Napoli, known for his “Greetings” mural in Yardley Borough and his “Bristol Stomp” mural in Bristol Borough, is putting the finishing touches on his latest legacy project at Belmont’s Garage.
Popping with color and plenty of nostalgia, the mural features a retro drive-in movie theater scene with a parking lot filled with antique cars and a movie screen spotlighting Belmont’s Garage.
Belmont’s owner, Andy Belmont, said he had originally thought of hanging an antique six foot Gulf sign on the wall. “But it wasn’t speaking to me,” he said.
“When I was out in the Mid-west I saw a lot of wall art and I thought, ‘Man, that would be cool.’” He ended up asking Napoli, one of his longtime faithful customers, what he thought.
“His original idea was an old Coke ad or something like that,” said Napoli. “I went home and started thinking about it. I looked at the wall and I said, ‘How about a retro drive-in movie theater where all the cars are parked and looking up at your ad?’”
Belmont liked the idea and after going through a number of iterations, sketches and ideas, they finally hit upon a finalized product.
The coolest thing about Napoli’s mural is that it incorporates many of the cars that have meant something to Belmont over the years, including Andy’s first car, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, and a 1959 Caddy, which he owned until recently.
It also incorporates a 1940 Ford, once owned by a friend of his father’s; a 1972 Nova, which his grandmother purchased new at Stockburger’s in 1973; and his 1966 Corvette. One of the license plates in the mural bears his dad’s signature plate, “Chic 57.” And two others include his race car number, “14.”
The finished mural will also be peppered with other nostalgic treats, including an S&H Green Stamp, a Coke-a-Cola sign and an ad for Chesterfields, a reminder of his grandfather.
“I think it’s really cool,” said Belmont. “I want it to be one of those things that when you’re driving by you do a double take.”
The outside mural accents the nostalgia that can be found inside the station where almost every square inch of wall space is filled with antique, automotive and NASCAR memorabilia, from model cars to license plates and everything in between.
“I’m really excited,” Belmont said of the mural. “I’m trying to create a go-to destination. I’m an old car guy. I’m just a collector. And all I’m doing, honestly, is feeding my little habit. I like nostalgic stuff. And I thought, ‘Man. I got this wall space out here and a phenomenal artist who’s a customer, why not do something unique and nostalgic with it. When I pull in I just want to feel good about where I work and what I’m doing. I just wanted something cool.”
The Belmont Family has operated a garage here since 1965, the year Andy’s father, Chic, opened the business. Andy himself started working at the garage at age 11. He left in 1985 to race stock cars professionally.
After his mom, Sandy, took ill in 2010, Andy returned home from North Caroline to work at the shop and ended up purchasing the garage from his dad in 2012. “I’m his retirement plan,” laughed Andy.
Napoli, who taught art at Pennsbury High School for years and was the chair of the school’s renown Pennsbury Prom, said the mural should be complete by the first week in August.
“I keep pinching myself because I’m doing a project just down the street from my house,” said Napoli.
For this project, he is being assisted by a handful of his former students and a Pennsbury parent, who has also helped with the Prom.
Jessica Bednarcik, a 2020 Pennsbury graduate, was working on the chrome of the flashy red 1959 Caddy on this particular day. The day before she was detailing a Chevrolet sign.
“I’ve never painted a car before,” said Jessica. “Doing the chrome is challenging because there’s a lot of reflection involved, both in front of you and behind, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Jessica is attending school at the Savannah Institute of Art where she is studying illustration.
“I was happy when Jessica got involved,” said Napoli. “I always know that all I have to do is show her some pictures and give her a little start and she just takes off on it and I step out of the way.”
McKayla Horton, a 2017 Pennsbury graduate and a 2021 graduate of Temple’s Tyler School of Art, was working on one of the cars, adding additional detail. She just landed a job as an elementary school art teacher in the Philadelphia School District, following in the footsteps of her mentor, Mr. Nap.
“Mr. Nap taught me the importance of following your passion and doing what you’re passionate about. That’s why I’m becoming an art teacher because I was spending all of my time in the art room at the high school. I realized that if I didn’t continue with this that I would regret it.”
“I worked on the Pennsbury Prom for 27 straight years and saw some incredible things,” said Napoli. “She did, if not the best, one of the best student murals of all time. It was the Philadelphia theme prom and she did the Magic Garden. And it was phenomenal.”
Both Mckayla and Jessica worked on the “Greetings from Yardley” mural last summer and fall in downtown Yardley Borough.
Leslie Kliesh, a Pennsbury parent who has volunteered with the Prom committee for more than a decade, has worked on all three mural projects in Yardley, Bristol and now at Belmont’s Garage in Middletown.
On this particular day she was working on the license plate for the 1957 Chevy Bel Air.
“Working with Tony has made me a little more bold and has taught me to push myself,” she said.
A longtime member of the Prom committee, Kliesh has overseen the decoration efforts in the hallways immediately outside of the cafeteria and the bathrooms.
“That was one area I didn’t have much to worry about,” said Napoli.
“We just did our stuff. We were quiet. We had our music on. That’s one thing I’m known for in my hallways. We always have our music on,” said Kliesh.
Also lending a hand with the mural are Deirdra Hennessey, Katy Freeman, Deanna Michalovicz and Annie Krizinski.
“So far everyone who has seen it has liked it and thinks it’s cool,” said Belmont. “The cool part is he’s got students involved. It’s turned this into a community project."