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  • Ron Pivarnik (left) came up with the mural concept designed by Joe Puskas at Firehouse Subs in Severna Park.
    Ron Pivarnik (left) came up with the mural concept designed by Joe Puskas at Firehouse Subs in Severna Park.

Firehouse Subs Mural Pays Homage To Severna Park’s Past And Present

Zach Sparks
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May 3, 2017

Patrons at Firehouse Subs in Park Plaza often come with an appetite for food, but before they examine the menu, they’re often captivated by a vivid wall mural depicting fire stations, a train and emblematic sports figures.

The mural was created by artist Joe Puskas, who brought to life the concept of franchise owner Ron Pivarnik. Puskas has painted a mural for every Firehouse Subs location since he was approached by founders Chris and Robin Sorenson in 1994. To date, he has painted about 1,050 murals for the restaurant chain.

“When you do something that identifies with the area, it makes the town feel like that store is their own,” Puskas said, explaining why Firehouse Subs has a custom mural at each location.

Before he gets to work, Puskas has the franchise owner send him pictures of the local area. Pivarnik took that responsibility a step further and scrawled potential concepts for Puskas to work from.

For the Severna Park tableau, Pivarnik asked Puskas to paint a striking contrast. On the left side, rendered in black and white, is a vintage truck from Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company circa 1923, and on the right side, a modern truck from Anne Arundel County Special Operations Fire Company No. 23 at Jones Station, in color and bedecked with a miniature green hornet.

“The restaurant sits almost dead center between the two fire stations,” Pivarnik said. “It’s 2 miles to one and 2.1 miles to the other. I thought, ‘How do I pick one fire station over the other?’ And I said, ‘I really don’t want to.’”

Splitting the two trucks, an oncoming train travels along the old Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad, which is now the site of the B&A Trail. A falcon flying overhead represents the Severna Park High School mascot.

For inspiration, Pivarnik acquired old images from each fire station. Finding other elements to incorporate was more challenging.

“The fire trucks were the easy part. The train was the hard part,” he said. “I kept asking people, ‘What is Severna Park known for?’ One day, I was sitting on the B&A Trail by the railroad museum when it hit me.”

Puskas added the black-and-white touch, a nostalgic effect that he had used before. “Probably about the 10th mural I did was black and white,” he said. “It was an homage to [the franchisees’] father … and it was a timely chronology of him as a younger firefighter. That’s kind of where that concept came from, and we’ve done a bunch of black-and-white murals since that one.”

Puskas said that when he started painting for Firehouse Subs, he did about five out-of-town murals before deciding that he would miss his family too much if he were always visiting each town to craft the murals. He now creates each artwork from the Firehouse Subs headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, and it takes him between one week and 10 days to complete a mural. “I draw and design every single one,” he said, “but I have a crew now that helps me.”

Asked about his favorite murals, Puskas said, “I’ve done some fantasy ones. I like doing ones where I can make them up totally myself.” Then, citing a mural with dragons and superheroes, he added that “it stretches your chops creatively.”

Pivarnik knows his favorite piece — the one adorning the wall in his restaurant — and his customers also have taken a shine to the artwork. “People love it. Some people point out the green hornet, but most people don’t see the falcon. The older people, the ones who have lived in Severna Park for a while, tend to pick up on everything.”

Pivarnik most enjoys that the mural serves as a reminder that as the franchise owner, he wants Firehouse Subs to be part of the Severna Park community.

“I was enamored by it,” he said. “I almost had a tear in my eye. I’m not an overly sentimental person, but it exceeded my every expectation. It was a vision I had, and Joe and his team did an amazing job.”


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