Friday Interview: Tom Toupin! April 13, 2012 13:09
Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to prove that despite all the pink and glitter, we do have boys here at Craftland. I interviewed Tom Toupin, local artist and also owner of one of our favorite coffee shops in town. Read on to get some great business advice, and find out why Tom should be on his way to Olympics!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Tom Toupin and I’m a coffee shop owner with a love for busted up, vintage neon signs. I wanted to buy some for my coffee shop (White Electric) and when I couldn't find any good options online I decided to make them myself. The original size that I made for my coffee shop and a few other local businesses was 4' X 4'. They were met with such a great response I decided to make a smaller, more home-friendly size available for anyone. Then I started experimenting with other marquee icons such as arrows and cafe signs.
Describe your studio for us.
My studio isn’t much of a studio, it’s our garage. I have it loaded with everything from wood clamps to motorcycles, anything I can use to cut, nail or beat the hell out of wood. My paint booth is also our lumber room which we use in the winter to store all the cords of wood we use to heat our home. So basically I use every outdoor area that has a roof. In the summer I like to drag my bench outside and build away in the driveway.
Do you feel a connection between your creative work and your work owning and operating White Electric?
There is a connection between my signs and running White Electric. I’m always trying to keep the coffee shop new and exciting. I feel like the rotation of local artists and my own work really adds to the White Electric experience.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to strike out on their own and run a business?
If I had to give any advice about starting a business it would be to make sure you have some kind of previous experience first. Previous to owning White Electric I had held every job in a restaurant from bus boy to restaurant manager. I also had some past experience with making signs; when I was in college I worked for a contractor and we rebuilt everything from 40 foot vintage sail boats to electronic computer rooms for Raytheon. Understanding your business from other angles is what will keep you ahead and always ready to adapt.
What does handmade mean to you?
I consider a handmade product something that didn’t previously exist, almost like an invention. I wanted to purchase some marquee letters for the coffee shop so bad. After searching all over I decided to make my own, and with no access to a welder, I figured I’d make wood look like metal.
How did you become involved with Craftland?
I became involved with Craftland mainly because my beautiful and talented wife was already selling her products there and I figured I’d make a nice light up letter C for their window. After about 2 weeks they sold the letter C so I made another and it sold and so on and so on.
Little known, fun fact about you?
The only fun fact I can think of would be my extremely small uvula. It’s so small the dentist sent me to a specialist because he thought something was wrong. The specialist was psyched, it was like he made a National Geographic discovery. He insisted I had the largest airway with the smallest uvula he had ever seen and that I should be a professional runner due to the fact I would never run out of breath. So here I am building light-up letters when I should be lighting up the race track.
To see a Craftland video of Tom in action from last year, go here.