My design classic: Gregory & Paul’s

Under threat of closure for decades, the Coney Island eatery is home to an inspiring array of handmade signage, says illustrator Sarah Beetson

Since 2002, I have made five pilgrimages to the place that inspires me most in the world: Coney Island, on the shores of Brooklyn. My most photographed spot there is Gregory & Paul’s eatery on the boardwalk, which has recently been renamed Paul’s Daughter. Founded by Paul Georgoulakos and his best friend upon their arrival from Greece in 1962, his daughter Tina now runs the show

The original building was constructed in 1939, with rounded corners and ornate wooden pillars. A classic in beachfront architecture, it was revamped in 2012. What’s really special about it, though, is that it still incorporates all of Gregory & Paul’s original handpainted signage, with the cotton candy kids Chiefito and Chiefita, and Mr Shrimp still dominating the front panels. Brilliant as the new design looks to be, I’m still kind of sad that the ageing original has gone.

What resonates with me is the nature of the handpainted signage adorning every interior and exterior corner of this little seaside shack, declaring the availability of such delicacies as salt water taffy and sausage heros – the hotdog was invented on Coney Island. This handmade ethos is what I love most about the colourful aesthetic of Coney. The signs were created for Paul through the decades by the same signwriter, and are now restored by Brooklyn artist Stephen Gaffney, who also created the new Paul’s Daughter sign when the business was handed down.

Every single item available in the shack is written haphazardly in veritable Technicolor all over the walls; a naively brilliant exploitation of free advertising space. The signwriter has even lent his hand to a ‘Please Wash Your Hands’ sign in the employee bathroom. There is a magically authentic retrograde feel about the diner that is evoked by the signs. The place is a permanent pastel-come-spaceage 1960s time capsule.

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