WILDWOOD – When Petal’s opened in Wildwood nearly a decade ago, owners Mark Boberick and Nicholas Nastasi had no idea that their window displays would become the talk of the town. For the 2022 holiday season, they unveiled their most elaborate window display yet; this year’s window is at once a tribute to Nastasi’s late mother, an echo of Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks painting, and a piece of art that took over 250 hours to create.
“It took about three months all in all,” Boberick said. This year’s window depicts a miniature version of Petal’s itself in the style of the famous “Nighthawks,” but instead of four Americans enjoying a late-night reprieve, Santa Claus sits at the diner counter as he enjoys a long rest after a busy night.
The window display is actually three distinct windows: the large outer, full-sized window, the Nighthawk diner window, and a miniaturized version of the Petal’s window. The display is an illusion; it plays with lines and angles in a way that makes the city-block scene seem bigger than it actually is.
The display imagines “Nighthawks” from another perspective. The painting is deliberate in how it frames the angular city block; these angles invite the viewer to imagine what is just around the corner. Turns out, Santa Claus and Petals were hiding there all along.
Many of the miniature details throughout the window scene pay homage to Mary Nastasi, who worked at Total Image Salon right next door to Petal’s for many years. Her jewelry, always flashy and ornate, decorates the display’s miniature Christmas tree that flashes silently inside the miniature Petal’s model.
A small brooch donning her image carefully rests on one of the tree branches. “The whole miniature Petal’s store is decorated with her jewelry. This is our first Christmas without her,” Boberick said of his mother-in-law. “She was the effervescent person that everybody met when they walked into the salon. Having gone through this process of decorating this Christmas without her was difficult,” he said.
The display – with its intricate angles, small details, and elaborate architectural layout designed to create an illusion of size – was a three-month project for the Petal’s crew.
It began with sketches, which turned into 3D architectural models on a computer, which finally became a miniature proof-of-concept rendition of the window display. Once Boberick decided that his plan might actually pan out, he and his team got to work. Members of the Petal’s staff helped with many of the details, including tiny bouquets and miniature fruit baskets.
Nine people worked on the display in total. Boberick said that his staff enjoyed working in a “medium they aren’t necessarily familiar with,” and said that several members of the staff were emotionally moved by the process in ways that they could not have foreseen.
Three months and hundreds of hours of work later, the elaborate display was ready to be unveiled.
Looking at it from the street, one might feel a tingle of stillness or loneliness, Boberick said. Santa sits alone at a bar, and the location of Petal’s itself is quiet and often motionless during the Wildwood off-season. These feelings are present in the original Nighthawks painting, but Boberick urges onlookers to see past the stillness.
The city depicted in the original painting was lights-off so the bright lights would not attract enemy spy planes. The painting is set shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; the whole country was on edge. But there is genuine joy and warmth in the diner even if it is surrounded by darkness.
So it is with this year’s Petal’s display. The city scene is still and dark, but Santa is celebrating a job well done.
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