June 3, 2020

Diner’s Mural Changed To Placate Harley-Davidson

WORCESTER, MA – Artist Tony Freitas waited until a decent day in late April to pull out his ladder and paints to alter a mural on the Miss Worcester Diner here that had riled Harley-Davidson.

The hand-painted mural, which displayed the motorcycle maker’s bar and shield logo, now also exhibits a sponsor name; that of Sheldon’s Harley-Davidson in nearby Auburn, MA.

“Every job poses a problem, challenges,” Freitas said Sunday afternoon. “The challenge here was painting without ruining the background. If I didn’t get it right the first time, I’d have to repaint the flames.”

Tony Freitas alters the mural

Freitas originally painted Harley-Davidson’s logo resting on a bed of flames on an air conditioning duct above the diner’s entrance last summer. In late January, however, diner owner Kim Kniskern received a cease and desist letter from Harley-Davidson claiming trademark infringement.

Harley-Davidson demanded that the diner “remove the Harley-Davidson Mark from the exterior of your business.”

The letter continued, “While Harley-Davidson appreciates your enthusiasm for the brand, I hope you can understand that we must be diligent in protecting our trademark rights, including the policing of unauthorized use.”

A firestorm ensued when news of Harley-Davidson’s request became public. The situation received extensive news coverage, and Kniskern and Freitas vowed to fight Harley-Davidson’s claim. Freitas called it “petty.”

Front page of “Telegram” newspaper in Worcester

The situation resolved itself within a few days, though, when Sheldon’s Harley-Davidson stepped up to sponsor the mural, essentially changing it from a piece of art into a commercial billboard.

That move satisfied Harley-Davidson, which, according to Freitas, requested that the modification of the mural be done by mid-April. Lousy weather and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the job and it wasn’t until April 25 that Freitas was to tackle it.

“It always looks easier than it really is. When you’re up on a ladder, it’s never as easy as it looks,” he said.

Tony Freitas at work

(Diner photos courtesy of Tony Freitas)

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About Bud Wilkinson

An award-winning print and broadcast journalist, Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" vintage car feature for the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. He studied journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University where he received a B.A. degree. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville.

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