The Bigger Picture
A move from mall kiosk to strip center comes with special challenges–and advantages.
The world is Larry Latham’s canvas. For more than 20 years, Latham has been wowing the patrons of the WestGate Mall in Spartanburg, SC, with his freehand airbrush art and original graphics as part of PopShopArt.
The airbrushing guru got his start in February of 1992 when Latham leased a 1,000-square-foot space in the mall. Because PopShopArt was in the food court and the mall was slated for renovations, his rent was low and he spent five years building up a customer base. “These five years with low overhead gave me the opportunity to grow my business without a lot of stress,” he says. “The next 16 years I operated out of a kiosk in the new food court. The first 12 were good, but as all businesses suffered from the economy, so did I.”
Latham knew he could draw at an early age and his interest in art was sparked by the comics he read as a child. While he continued to paint and draw in school, airbrushing came much later in life. Latham recalls first seeing an airbrush artist at Myrtle Beach on the boardwalk painting shirts when he was just six years old. “I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen,” he says. “I didn’t get an airbrush until I was 19 and had no idea how to use it. I spent the next 10 years painting canvases and T-shirts for friends, and then I finally decided to try it out in the public.”
Prices for his work range from $15 to $25 and his services include airbrushing acrylic images on just about anything, plus a variety of custom vinyl stickers and lettering.
“My talent has afforded me a living, but much more than that, I have met a tremendous amount of people in this town I now call home,” he says. “If you can imagine it, I can pretty much paint it.”
Latham continues to do his own art, but has created a special niche in bringing other people’s imagination to life.
Earlier this year, Latham moved from the mall to a 1,200-foot space in a strip center. Because he considers his work more as a graphic design studio than a retail shop, he felt it was a move he had to make. Besides, customers were asking for more types of processes on tees and the equipment was quickly outgrowing the kiosk. While the kiosk was great for 360-degree marketing, it was not accommodating for equipment, supplies, and workspace.
“Since my move, sales of some items have decreased, as my customer is still trying to find me, but sales of other items have increased; items such as business-related tees and vinyl graphics for businesses,” Latham says. “We have attracted these customers with road-side banners and signage. We are still learning about marketing this new venture.”