Project: Straus Carpet Murals-2002-2004
Medium: Acrylics on wood panels
Dimensions: Three walls of different sizes
Location: 2020 Ford Street, Oakland, CA

Assisted by: Ingrid Good

The tragic terrorist attack on 9/11/01 had just happened to occur the day before Ingrid Good and I had planned to start a large chalk art piece depicting the Mona Lisa on the cobblestones at Jack London Square. The piece measured about 10' x 10', and took us three days to complete.

The crowd was subdued and emotions were raw. People were very gentle, and delighted to see artists working on outdoor art in the aftermath of the tragedy. Tom Straus of Straus Carpets happened to walk by, and we connected. He was looking for something visually exciting for his giant carpet store warehouses, near the Park Street Bridge. If you haven't been there, the area is dominated by a cement plant that seems to cover everything with a gray film of soot. Over the course of a year and a half, working with Ingrid's colorful designs, we drenched two buildings with bright mural paints and big, simple graphics.

On the morning of Oct. 2nd, 2006, we watched the huge Straus carpet fire unfold on the news. I went to the warehouse to see the damage and take photos, and as I was leaving, I noticed that the fire had burned to the edge of the arched doorway mural, and one of the panels was just hanging off. I asked Tom if I could remove it, and he said yes. 

Fire can't burn away Straus' spirit

 STRAUS CARPET CO. OWNER Tom Straus (right) stands beside a mural by artist Dan Fontes (left). The muralists in front of the remains of the carpet company’s Oakland warehouse, destroyed in an Oct. 2 fire. The carpet business remains open in a neighboring building, and Straus has made plans to rebuild.  By  ANGELA HILL  |  ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com

STRAUS CARPET CO. OWNER Tom Straus (right) stands beside a mural by artist Dan Fontes (left). The muralists in front of the remains of the carpet company’s Oakland warehouse, destroyed in an Oct. 2 fire. The carpet business remains open in a neighboring building, and Straus has made plans to rebuild.

By ANGELA HILL | ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com

PUBLISHED: October 18, 2006 at 7:49 am | UPDATED: August 17, 2016 at 6:27 am

OAKLAND — Color and resilience are quickly replacing the pile of destruction and debris at Straus Carpet Co. in Oakland, where a five-alarm fire leveled the main warehouse and showroom Oct. 2.

Now, with a flame-colored phoenix and a cancan dancer painted on a large sign in front of the site at 2828 Ford St. near the Park Street bridge to Alameda, Straus remains open for business in its undamaged warehouse next door, and plans already are under way to rebuild.

“We want people to know we’re still going,” said owner Tom Straus, who founded the company in 1975 and has been in business at the location since 1982. “We’re open regular hours, and we’ve kept all our employees on. We’re clearing the debris, and putting out modular units and opening that up too.”

One of Straus’ early phone calls after the fire was to well-known muralist Dan Fontes, who with artist Ingrid Good in 2001 and 2002, painted the original vibrant murals on the Straus building. The fanciful scenes became familiar sights to thousands of motorists on their way to Interstate 880. “We had to have the murals back,” Straus said. “I think some people know us better for those than for the carpet.”

Fontes was painting at Straus on Tuesday. In just a couple of days, he completed the phoenix and the cancan dancer in a high kick that reads, “The Show Must Go On!” He plans to have at least three more pieces done in a week or so.

The blaze, sparked by an electrical problem inside the Straus building, broke out in the early morning hours of Oct. 2. Flames quickly engulfed the warehouse and spread to the attic of the adjacent building — not owned by Straus — which housed Universal Metal Polishing and several recording studios known as the Ford Street Studios, rented by dozens of local musicians. No one was injured, but many musicians were displaced and valuable equipment and recordings were lost.