Too Much Metal Showroom opens April 15
For 15 years, Fred Gillich's designs and slogans have dominated the local T-shirt scene. Traditionally, Gillich sold his T-shirts and other merch online and at numerous local festivals including Summerfest.
"I have done a lot of festivals, and people always ask if I have a store," says Gillich. "And having a store will mean I don't have to sell as many shirts from my house."
On April 15, in conjunction with Gallery Night, Gillich will unveil his new retail store, Too Much Metal Showroom, located in the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St. The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m.
WMSE 91.7FM is broadcasting live from the event. WMSE DJ Erin Wolf will host a show, "Milwaukee Culture Makers," which will highlight Milwaukee innovators, artists and designers live from the third floor of the Marshall Building.
The Marshall Building houses local artists Debra Brehmer and Reginald Baylor. It is also home to LuckyStar Studio and the ACLU.
"I couldn't ask for better neighbors," says Gillich. "Whether I have legal woes or just want to shoot the sh*t, I'm set."
The 400-square foot space -- which Gillich describes as "the size of four Summerfest booths" -- will showcase all of the merchandise that's available online, including Gillich's latest Wisconsin union shirts along with his classics like "Too Much Rock For One Hand," "Bacon: The Other Chocolate," "Fear the Beer," "Iron Cupcakes Can Beat Up Your Cupcakes" and more.
Gillich says business is steady but he continues to struggle with other designers stealing his ideas.
Gillich grew up in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood and graduated from Milwaukee Technical High School (now Bradley Technology and Trade School). Today, he lives in Washington Heights.
Gillich studied art in Vienna, Austria and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in German literature and linguistics and a minor in publication design.
Following graduation in 1995, Gillich started Smac Design / Too Much Metal, and he has not worked for anyone but himself ever since. He says his shirts have remained popular for so many years because people appreciate good designs and they have a lot of Milwaukee pride.
"This is a great place. It's pretty down to earth. We're changing. We're no longer a bunch of factory workers going to the corner bar to get drunk. We're producing, and without the big city drama," he says. "And we're without pretense. When you go to New York or Chicago a lot, like I do, you realize a lot of pretense."
Gillich, an avid Twitter user, says that social networking has helped him spread the word about his business and also to make new friends and get input from people. "I use Twitter as a sounding board. I throw a lot of ideas out there and see what people think," he says.
Gillich spent multiple weekends recently in Madison protesting, selling his Wisconsin union shirts and handing out thousands of stickers. His "Too Much Rock" stickers are almost on the same iconic level as "I Closed Wolski's," showing up on wagons, bikes, bumpers and inside bathroom stall walls in Milwaukee and beyond.
Gillich says his "Too Much Rock For One Hand" and "Too Much Metal For One Hand" slogans mean different things to different people.
"To me, it's a parody. But over the years, people developed their own meanings for it. The heavy metal kids, they love it, and the ironic set love it, too, but for different reasons," he says.
Out of the hundreds of shirts he has designed, Gillich says his "Immigrant" shirt -- with the word "Immigrant" written in 18 different languages -- is probably his favorite.
"T-shirts are a bridge for people to communicate. They are a unifying thing. I call it 'making the rad,'" says Gillich.
This business just scratches the surface on the things Fred has been involved with. Pablove, Iron Cupcake and many other community related events have had Fred's imprint on a variety of levels. I wish him huge success with this.
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