A Radio Flyer Mural for All Ages

Radio Flyer Mural
All photos by Alan Luntz.

Radio Flyer is one of those American institution companies that is well known to kids of all ages, thanks to their line of wagons and electric bikes. A new bold and vibrant 30-by-50-foot mural went up last fall on one of the exterior walls of the company’s headquarters on the west side of Chicago, Illinois and helps reinforce this reputation.

Right Ways Signs, LLC of Chicago has a fifty-year history of painting signs and creating custom sign murals. The company ended up putting their skills and talents on full display to complete this colorful new mural.

The project began when Radio Flyer officials reached out to Right Way Signs directly last spring with an idea for a wall mural design.

Radio Flyer Mural
Pictured (L-R): Ches Perry, known as “The Chicago Sign Painter,” and Alex Perry, CEO of Right Way Signs.

Depending on the traffic and time of day, Right Way Signs is located as little as fifteen minutes from Radio Flyer’s headquarters. “We’ve seen them testing out a lot of new products in their parking lot, which is cool to see,” says Alex Perry, CEO of Right Way Signs.

The sign company had worked with Radio Flyer on a project back in 2015, but they also already have quite the public reputation for fulfilling these types of murals.

“We have the good fortune of not having to do a lot of cold calling for projects,” says Perry. “We have the team, the equipment, and the experience. A lot of people come to us. That’s something we could only dream about twenty years ago.

“But times have changed. Thanks to social media, we’ve gotten our brand out there, and people see the kind of work we do.”

Radio Flyer Mural
Mixing paints on-site.

While Right Way Signs also offers digital and vinyl signage, their paint work remains extremely popular—and for good reason. Alex’s father, Ches Perry, known as “The Chicago Sign Painter,” has been making painted signs stand out all over the world for fifty-plus years. In fact, Ches played an instrumental role in completing this project.

Jessica Toro-Pacheco, senior visual communications designer at Radio Flyer, had designed a mural highlighting the company’s history—from original red wagons to heritage stories to their latest innovation, Flyer™ electric bikes.

Right Way Signs experiences a good 50/50 split when it comes to design work—it’s either created by them or their client. “It can be nice when a client provides the design, because this allows us to focus solely on painting the sign or mural,” says Alex.

Radio Flyer Mural
Ches Perry and his team painting sections of the mural.

Radio Flyer provided Right Way Signs with the final mural design and measurements, which the sign company triple-checked during the site survey process.

The company then supplied Right Way Signs with the needed Pantone colors for the mural. Right Way Signs mixed the paints from there.

Ches says that they mostly used Ronan enamel and flat paints, as well as 1-Shot enamel and flat paint, for this project.

When it came to providing a cost tag to Radio Flyer for this project, Right Way Signs looked at it from the same point of view as they would doing wall vinyl.

“We figured out a square footage price. This helped us plan how much paint we were going to use and how much labor was going to be involved,” says Alex. “This is second nature for us. We can look at something to get a square footage and quickly get a price going.”

Radio Flyer Mural
Painting a section of the mural.
The Painting Process

Six team members helped Ches with the painting process. “They didn’t all work the same time,” he says. “We had some of them scheduled for different days.”

Ches and his crew first primed the entire mural area on the wall with white paints and then roller-coated all the squares and rectangles with different colors.

There were several different methods Right Way Signs could’ve painted this mural onto the Radio Flyer wall, however they decided to use butcher paper with perforated holes.

After leveling and lining everything up, they put the pounce pattern on to pounce the patterns for each square or rectangle then brush-painted the lettering and characters.

Right Ways Signs started the painting process beginning at the bottom of the mural. The reason for this was because their lift truck was still in use on another project at the time.

Radio Flyer Mural
Mural designer Jessica Toro-Pacheco of Radio Flyer paints a section.

However there was no specific order to the entire mural painting process. Each muralist just took a square or rectangle then began brush painting.

Alex says that Radio Flyer was very hands-on during this project—both in the design and painting stages.

Radio Flyer’s CWO (Chief Wagon Officer) Robert Pasin is the grandson of Radio Flyer’s founder, Antonio Pasin. Right Way Signs pitched him on the idea of helping with some of the painting process.

“There aren’t a lot of CEOs I’d ask to help us paint a mural,” says Alex, “but I knew that, with Radio Flyer being a very fun and innovative company, he might be willing to do it.”

And willing he was. Robert, painter number eight on the team roll call, took the lift with Ches and helped fill the Radio Flyer logo.

Radio Flyer Mural
Radio Flyer CWO (Chief Wagon Officer) Robert Pasin, listed as painter number eight on the team roll call, takes the lift to help out with the mural painting process.

Since the Radio Flyer headquarters is gated with security and security cameras, Right Way Signs had the luxury to leave their scaffold and two lift trucks on-site at during the duration of the project. “It would’ve been just too much to drive them back-and-forth each day in Chicago traffic,” says a relieved Alex.

Right Ways Signs did not add any protective coating to the mural. These coatings can be a debatable topic when it comes to mural painting. “Depending on sunlight, these types of coatings can yellow the mural over time or cause paint cracking,” says Alex.

Another reason Alex avoids adding protective coatings is related to future touch-ups or, worst case scenario, graffiti artists jumping the fence and tagging it.

“If we’ve got to repaint something, the colors aren’t going to match,” he says. “They’re not going to match exactly anyway, because there might be little bit of fading. But anytime we’ve added a protective coating, it’s ended up completely throwing off the colors.”

Radio Flyer Mural
The Radio Flyer mural.

Normally this would’ve been a two-week project, but because of weather conditions, the process took about six weeks. “October in Chicago this year was miserable,” says Alex. “We had about twenty-five days of rain/drizzle out of thirty-one possible days, which set us back.”

There were internal sign shop reasons for the loudly ticking clock as well. “We had a dozen or so other projects also going on during this time,” says Alex. “In the back of our minds, we were thinking about the twelve other clients we’d promised having their projects done by December 1.

“So not only did we have to work around the weather and manage our client’s expectations, but the longer this project took, the more backed up we were going to get. It’s a good problem to have, but then again, you don’t want twelve other people angry at you.”

Right Way Signs put on final touches all the way up until the eleventh hour.

Near the end, Radio Flyer approached Alex requesting a few additional elements be added in areas that felt bare. Right Way was able to accommodate these changes since they were additive and did not require modifying what was already completed.

Radio Flyer Mural
Ches Perry, Alex Perry, Radio Flyer CWO Robert Pasin, and mural designer Jessica Toro-Pacheco celebrate the new Radio Flyer mural.

Alex says that this ended up being one of the more intricate murals they’ve painted, mainly because there’s so much detail going on in the illustrations.

Ches really liked the variety involved with this “fun” project, when meant it was always interesting for him and his team.

“There were so many different things on there to paint—the wagons, the bikes, quite a bit of lettering, and the cartoony-style characters,” he says.

“I think anytime we can do something like this for Radio Flyer or anyone else that has a lot of color, it does keep it interesting,” adds Alex. “And it’s nice when clients tie in logos and lettering, so it’s not just straight-up illustrations or artwork.

“It was kind of the best of both worlds in terms of signage and illustrations.”