Three little pigs

If you saw a painted pig at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in September, it wasn’t a judgment of your diet. It’s part of a new campaign reminding Vestavia Hills residents to support their local businesses.

At its September luncheon, the Chamber of Commerce launched its “Shop, Dine, Play” initiative and introduced four outdoor painted fiberglass pig statues. One pig stays at the Chamber office on Merryvale Road, and the other three rotate between city businesses. Each pig is connected to a genre of business — one for shopping, one for dining and one for entertainment.

Chamber President Karen Odle said she wanted to encourage economic growth with something unexpected and fun. Once the idea of the painted pigs was introduced, she said there was considerable excitement from local businesses and chamber committee members. They hope to connect the pigs with the idea of piggy banks and investing in the city.

“We want people to know, ‘Hey, we do have great things here.’ So it’s sort of an education, but it’s also a fun project,” Odle said.

Shoppers can go to each week to find out where the pig will be and learn more about the host businesses. Odle encouraged residents to take pictures with the pigs and tweet them with the hashtag #VHpigs. There will also be a “roaming reporter” for the chamber, who will visit businesses and share interesting details and little-known facts about them.

The first businesses to host the pigs were Bruster’s Ice Cream, Artists Incorporated and The Heights shopping center in Cahaba Heights.

“We wanted to do something unique that would get people talking and spark a little enthusiasm,” said Linda Parker, the owner of Bruster’s at 1008 Vestavia Parkway. She is the chair of the Chamber Foundation and was part of the chamber’s meetings to create the pig campaign.

Members of Artists Incorporated decorated each of the pig sculptures. They were asked to include “Shop, Dine, Play” somewhere on the statue, but otherwise had creative freedom. Samuel and Amy Collins decided to go hog-wild and design a pig to make people “smile at them and think they’re fun.”

“The ones I like are always fun,” Samuel said, mentioning similar promotions he had seen in other cities.

The Collins painted their pig to look like a statue, then covered it with faux graffiti. One pig has floral  patterns painted on it and the other looks like a barbecue sandwich.

The Vestavia pigs are likely to make an appearance at other city and chamber events, including the High Notes grand opening of the new City Hall and Viva Vestavia, both in October.

Odle said she’d like to see the number of pigs in the city expand. Several business owners have expressed interest in buying pigs of their own, which cost $800 each, to decorate with their own logos and designs. Odle began taking orders for them at the September chamber luncheon.

“We hope [to] eventually have these pigs throughout the whole business community, from one end to the other,” Odle said.

Kristin Tunnell, the chamber’s vice chair of public education, is working with the school system so that businesses could potentially partner with middle and high school artists to decorate their own pigs. There will also be a Name the Pig contest with prizes for the winning students.

“We’re helping to make those things happen, engaging our students and possibly other artists that just live in Vestavia Hills,” Lisa Christopher, the chamber’s membership and marketing consultant, said.

The goal is not just to have fun or draw attention to local businesses, though. The chamber wants residents to draw the connection between the money they spend and the benefits they get back. Shopping local increases the city’s tax revenue, allowing for new projects and improvements of athletic fields, police and fire, the library and other public services.

“The thought is, the more you invest in Vestavia Hills, the more services and amenities that can be provided to the community,” Parker said.

“When they spend their dollars here in Vestavia Hills, they are investing and then that money will go back to improve the quality of life in our city, in all aspects of our city and for all ages,” Christopher agreed.


Story by:  SYDNEY CROMWELL on Vestavia Voice

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