Fake storefronts draw tourists to Irish town of Bushmills

An empty shop was made to look like a tailor

Traders in a recession-blighted Irish town have found a novel way to breathe new life into their businesses - with colorful fake shopfronts.

Like many other depressed communities across the island of Ireland, Bushmills in Co. Antrim has been severely hit by the economic downturn, with many of its businesses forced to shut down.

But the Ulster town, which is world-famous as the place where the whiskey of the same name was first distilled, has now provided a blueprint for escaping the downturn which could inspire business leaders in other parts of the country to follow suit.

Their new campaign, called 'Brighter Bushmills Project', has seen dozens of beleaguered traders transform their shuttered stores with vibrant and eye-catching scenes of commerce.

The local council raised almost $47,000 for the unique project last year, with some funds also donated by the Bushmills distillery. 

Observers and commentators have described the campaign as the most expansive project tackling dereliction in Northern Ireland.

A report from Reuters stated:  "Around a dozen vacant units have been given a facelift, including an old-style cobblers where a worker in a flat cap mends shoes.

"A bakery with appetizing bread and cakes is depicted up the road with a barber shop and bookmakers nearby."

Amongst the other head-turning images are farmyard animals walking through doorways and people peering from windows.

What's more, the fake art project has already boosted business and tourist numbers in the area, as travelers heading up to the world-famous Giant's Causeway have been given an added reason to stop and wander the town's colourful streets.

Upbeat business chiefs have also reported that since the program kicked off, two previously shuttered shops have re-opened.

Bernard McMullan, a representative of Tourism Ireland, told ABC News he was thrilled with the success of the initiative.

He said: "It's been successful in bringing color to areas where it had been absent for a period, and it's obviously a really positive step."

He added: "Every town is always looking for ways to make their individual communities better, not just for tourists but for those who call it home."