Blending Art and Business
By the time Larry Pittsley was 16, he had already worked about 16 jobs.
“I started doing lighting and sound with my dad when I was just big enough to carry something,” he recalls.
Pittsley and his father worked the lights and sound production at almost all of the theaters in the area, including the Freeport Masonic Temple, the Coronado Performing Arts Center and the Midway Theatre. Pittsley still works gigs when someone “twists his arm.”
Around three years ago, another passion came into Pittsley’s life. He’d spent 11 years as an instructor at Highland Community College and was a mobile deejay on the side. He’d been a store manager for big-box stores, but he wanted to run a different kind of store. Thus was born American Garage Art, in Freeport. The shop is a trove of art, antiques and historical memorabilia. Pittsley also offers customized printing on apparel and more.
“I bought the building and started working with other artists. I didn’t even know how to do any of this,” Pittsley laughs. “Thank God for YouTube because you can learn anything on YouTube. You make a lot of mistakes, and you learn what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right.”
Some of his favorite designs include Little Cubs Field and quotes from Abraham Lincoln. He’s also printed GPS coordinates of local attractions and used his father’s historical photography.
Meandering through American Garage Art, no one can doubt Pittsley’s love for Freeport. The store is bursting with local pride, sporting shirts that read “Pretzel City” as well as “Fritz Brew,” “Sterling,” “Schmich Bros.,” and “Yellow Creek Brewery” – paying homage to Freeport’s original breweries.
Ultimately, the most important thing to Pittsley is customer service and a solid reputation.
“I’ve worked for a lot of professionals – I’ve worked for President Bush, President Obama, Steve Martin, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash,” he says. “They don’t say, ‘Maybe next time you can do a better job for us.’ You’ve got to get it right the first time. There’s no room for error when people are counting on you. If you’re not giving it your best shot and doing a quality job for someone, I think you’re in the wrong business.”