Next Order Please?

Much has changed since the January 30 post, “Dylan’s Right (Again).” I ended that entry with Nate hard at work, drawing malls that were requested by potential customers. It seemed like the story was finished. It wasn’t.

“To my surprise, and before I had to ask him again, he got to work. There he was, at the kitchen table, reworking some ideas to include the hedge fund and coming up with a new design for Orland Square. It’s an amazing sign of growth that Nate was able to get himself to work on an assignment.” That’s what I wrote. When I checked in later to see his work, I was shocked to see the most half-assed drawings, both obviously rushed attempt at filling orders he couldn’t care less about.

“Nate, these are not good,” I said when I saw the small sized, rush job pictures, devoid of Nate’s signature bits – toilet blueprints, insets of the “before” look at a particular store, etc.

“They’re fine!” he protested.

“They are not what people expect. They expect to get one of your regular works, either a one page drawing or two pages. If you want people to pay you money, then you have to do a good job.”

We seemed to hit a wall. Things looked bleak until Nate took a mall in progress and added my friend’s hedge fund, Lowercase Capital, in the collection of storefronts. Their official logo looked great nestled between an AT&T store and a Gino’s East pizzeria. Sure, Nate dropped it into Northfield, not Evanston, but close enough if you take the Edens. It met with solid approval from the customer. Sale number one.

Two days ago I got a message on Etsy, from a complete stranger who’d gone through Nate’s shop StripMallArt.


I was curious if you did commissioned work. My boyfriend grew up in the neighborhood near the McDonald’s on Rand Rd. and Ela Rd. in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and he worked at the Target next door in high school. I love your work and would think it would be a great reminder of where he grew up. Let me know either way.

Someone complete outside Nate’s orbit found him, got him and wanted a specific picture. I talked it over with Nate and he agreed.

By the next day, Nate was bought in on the concept of drawing to order, and he worked all day on the Lake Zurich piece. I sent it along to the buyer, who was thrilled by it. Sale number two.

He also turned his attention to reworking Orland Square. On the back of the new, more developed work, he taped his first simpler version. It became a unique piece with original art on both sides. The client loved it. Sale number three.


As often happens, something clicked and Nate changed. He’s always been good at applying what he eventually learns and adapting it to any situation. Now, any custom pieces will be met by a willing and happy artist who knows how to satisfy a hopefully growing group of patrons. And, when he reports for work at the houses he’s helping renovate, he’s a much better worker with his new found wisdom: keeping the customer satisfied is the key to success.


About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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