Roadhouse Relics

American Made Since 1997

Todd Sanders

Austin, Texas
I’m a neon pop artist. Educated in the original techniques of sign making, my works are made by hand, without computer-aided design.

Tell us about your business.

The first time restored a vintage sign in the early ‘90s, I fell in love with it — the character, type, and the charm of something so vibrant. I later bought a rundown building on South First and moved into the only room that still had a roof. I soon upgraded to a trailer out back where I lived for the next decade. It’s now my gallery and studio. I became obsessed with the techniques of neon sign making. I’ve pored over hundreds of old books and magazines trying to uncover aspects this lost art. My process includes creating paint, neon, and metal patterns. Once fabricated the next stage begins: the painting and weathering process. Assembling the neon is the final step. I continue to evolve as I create bolder and more audacious pieces — “Legs,” and “WTF” are a few of my recent works that pushed more boundaries as an artist. I love seeing the response from fans and collectors; it inspires me to continue to evolve my work.

What makes your business stand out?

I have worked for almost 20 years to study the techniques and lost art of neon signs. Other neon sign shops have popped up recently as the demand has increased, but they often use computers and graphic design programs to lay out patterns. For me, I love it because I’m glad people love the style, but as far as learning what I know and creating the way I do, they’ll have to study their whole lives to catch up to where I am right now. I am really proud of that. I’ve worked hard to be where I am. I have every Sign of the Times magazine from 1920 to 1960 in my office. I’ve given myself a master’s education poring over old books and magazines on sign making and neon. I feel I've become a keeper of a lost art and I am preserving a true American Made tradition. Over the past two decades, I am proud to say my gallery has become an Austin landmark. If you had told me when I bought it that one day The New York Times would list it as a must-see place in Austin, I wouldn’t have believed you.

What's the best business advice you've received?

Follow your bliss. Find a job that you would do for free, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

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