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Entrepreneurs
Business Observer Friday, Sep. 23, 2016 2 years ago

Lord of the Shirts

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The creator of iconic Mr. Sun and World Tour apparel thinks like a businessman first, artist second.
by: Bob Andelman Contributing Writer

Early on in their professional relationship, Diane Shelly recognized what she liked best about Chad Mize. Something she liked perhaps even more than Mize's artistry, found at ChadMize.com.

“He's a businessperson,” says Shelly, former executive director of the Florida Craft Arts Gallery in St. Petersburg and an organizer of the recently completed, second annual Shine On St. Petersburg Mural Festival. “Quite honestly, that was sort of why we chose the artists to be on the Shine committee. We didn't want a flaky artist.”

In Mize, 42, Shelly got someone who gets the business side of the art industry. To wit: The artist and painter of seven (and counting) large-scale outdoor murals in St. Petersburg's central and downtown business districts is probably best known for the design that doesn't bear his @Chizzy tagline. That would be his best-selling T-shirt, “World Tour.”

The concept and execution is so simple, it kills people who wish they thought of it first. On a plain black or gray background, Mize put the words:
Paris
London
Tokyo
St Pete

The shirt — available as a T-shirt, tank top or even onesie for chic infants — sells for $20 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, the Museum of Fine Arts and even the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. Mize has sold 15,000 shirts in three years. (Order online at StPeteThreads.com.)

Mize's other big seller is the “Mr. Sun” logo he designed, first for a back alley mural, and now it's a recognized area icon of the city that may one day topple the ubiquitous pelican found for years on most official city signs. The St. Petersburg chamber adopted Mr. Sun for ribbon cutting events.

“What's great is these shirts are actually paying for my life,” Mize says, laughing. “It's kind of like being on a sitcom and getting a residual check. I get checks every month for something I really don't have to do; I already developed and branded it. And now it's become a classic St. Pete shirt.”

Mize lives in St. Petersburg today, but he is a Bradenton native, a graduate of Manatee High School ('92) and the University of Mississippi ('96), where he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts. He has two decades of professional experience in design, animation, painting, illustration, art direction and character development.

In 1998, a Boston internet startup that produced online textbooks hired Mize. The short-lived company would soon change his life. “I got that job because I could draw, and they taught me computer programs such as Dreamweaver and Flash,” he says. “I was in my mid-20s, making $50,000. They were just giving money away and training you in all this stuff. That was such an asset, a dream come true for a struggling artist. That started my career.”

In 2003, Mize moved to St. Petersburg and started the Bluelucy gallery and studio to market his art and design skills. He closed the gallery in 2015 to focus more on art, less on retail.

In addition to murals, web design work and political campaigns (he created art designs for the Bernie Sanders campaign), Mize has curated 60 art exhibits over the past decade. In 2015, Great Bay Distributors hired him to curate its entire new facility in St. Petersburg, all pieces created by 10 local artists, himself included.

“I'd like to do more of that type of work, too,” he says. “Anything creative. I do all these different things because I like change. If I was doing the same thing all the time, I would be bored with it. Every day I have something new that I'm doing. I like that.”


Mural locations
The Hollander Hotel
(421 Fourth Ave. N.)

Green Bench Brewing Co.
(1133 First Ave. N.)

Kings Street Food Counter
(937 Central Ave.)

Pinellas Trail (20th Street and Third Avenue South)

Historic Uptown (Seventh Avenue North and Fifth Street)

Two on the 600 Central block alley, “Mr. Sun” and “Twiggy.”

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