Peter Van Arkens

Peter Van Arkens, left, and his wife Carmina met with Can’t Stop Smokin’ BBQ co-owner Peter Lehmann recently as they put final touches on a redo of the window of the Chandler restaurant.

Esperanza Hope Carmina and Peter van Arkens want their former Ahwatukee neighbors to know they’re coming back.

After 12 years in Ahwatukee, the couple relocated their business a few years ago to the Portland, Oregon, area for family reasons. But now they have their sights set on returning to the ‘hood sometime this year.

They’ve never really been gone entirely, since their company, Hope’s Graphics and Designs, continued doing its thing in the Chandler and Ahwatukee areas regularly.

Their son Adreas and daughter Desiree still live here and help their parents with the business. So, between business and family reasons, the van Arkens have been kind of jet-setters between Arizona and Oregon.

Their elaborate murals grace the storefronts of businesses and the interior and exterior walls of some homes in Ahwatukee and surrounding communities.

Last week, they were in town to give a re-do to the windows and awnings of Can’t Stop Smokin’ BBQ at 7250 W. Chandler Blvd. in Chandler, just across the I-10.

“They wanted higher visibility,” Peter explained.

So, the couple scraped off the old paint from the lettering and replaced it with a black fluorescent light paint that makes the lettering stand out after sunset.

Thus, the business’s claim of offering the “best barbecue in town” will be much more visible at night, Peter said.

But the couple was tired of the often cloudy and rainy weather of the Northwest and yearn to be back in the Valley of the Sun.

“We really miss our children, too,” Carmina said.

The company’s work is built around Carmina’s belief “murals should convey what they say.”

It’s not enough to rely on words to make an impression on potential customers, she said, especially if owners are trying to attract business on the fly. 

“If people are in a car, there are only a few seconds for a storefront to make an impression and if it’s something colorful and unique, they’ll remember it.”

“We try to depict on the outside what’s going on inside,” she added. “We want the murals to show what’s different about our client from the competition down the street.”

The van Arkens work well-defined roles in their nearly 30-year-old company. Carmina is the principal artist while Desiree often assists. Andreas often joins them to lay the foundation on which mom and daughter add their depictions of the business’ primary activities. Peter handles the business side and negotiates the deals.

One of her longest-standing pieces of window art adorns Bell’ Italia Pizzeria at 4909 E. Chandler Blvd., where the mural “adds a sense of warm greeting and care, eschewing the typical coldness of lackluster windows common in many businesses today,” Carmina said.

While the majority of Hope’s Graphics and Designs’ clients are businesses, the company also has done interior and exterior walls for homeowners. She said her largest mural for a home involved a backyard wall on which the owner wanted a beach house.

The van Argents’ client list is varied and has ranged from church offices and sanctuaries to restaurants and car lots. And besides murals, they also work up signs, cartoon character birthday posters, and even face painting services.

The murals generally ranged in size from 300 to 700 square feet and usually run about $10 per square foot, depending on the intricacy of the design.

And they’re designed to last, said Andreas, who applies a sealant that protects them from window washing as well as extreme heat.

“Each project is individually designed for maximum effectiveness and long-lasting enjoyment,” Carmina added.

“Ahwatukee is a small, yet driven town, and local businesses are open to helping one another grow,” she said. “These window art pieces are a testament to that spirit.”

Information: hopesgraphics.webs.com or 602-829-6347.

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