Some people seek antidepressants when they slip into a funk. Others, like Scott Gerber, find that true happiness lies within building stick men. Tube Dudes, to be exact.
“I was slowly approaching the imminent demise of my company because the yachting industry was horrible due to the tremendous number of boats being repossessed,” Gerber said. “On my way to work at five in the morning, something just hit me. It said, ‘You are going to make a stick man, and nothing is going to interfere or stand in the way.’”
When Gerber arrived at work July 1, he grabbed his foreman and asked whether he’d like to make a stick man or grind fiberglass that day. Two hours later, a sculpture with a fishing rod in one hand and a beer in the other hand stood before them wearing a large smile.
“Before we had finished the stick man, I kept saying, ‘That’s a horrible name,’” Gerber said. “‘Tube Dude’ came to my head and stuck immediately.”
Why the smile on the Tube Dude’s face? Gerber was thinking of the five-year-old company that he’d sacrificed his family and happiness for, working 20-hour days. It seemed there was nothing he could do to turn it around, thus, he searched for something to put a smile on his face.
“He’s got big bright eyes and a smile that takes up 50% of his head,” Gerber said. “The smile was all that mattered to me and the optimism in the eyes. On July 4, Alex (my wife) and I had a giant party with 250 people. We had the Tube Dude out on the dock and everybody loved him. I started building them for my friends, and it got to the point of me going broke, so I turned it into a company Sept. 1.”
Gerber has built more than 120 Tube Dudes to date. He’s built dudes holding footballs, dudes playing tennis, dude musicians and a female version holding a wine glass and shopping bag. He even got a request for a pug.
“It’s definitely the greatest job in the world,” Gerber said. “The original goal was to spread some happiness, and the dudes are doing that 24 hours a day, all day long. As tough as times are right now, if it wasn’t for those tough times, he wouldn’t have been born. People are saying, ‘You’re not selling art, you’re selling emotion.’”
The dudes have made their way to Texas, New Jersey and Kentucky. Made out of thick aluminum that’s powder-coated, painted and baked at 600 degrees, the dudes are whimsical, but durable.
Gerber says the secret is simplicity. He could have added ears and a nose, but the basic dude is just the thing that makes you smile.
“Your imagination, which I think is the strongest entity you have in your body, takes over and fills in the gaps,” Gerber said. “There’s nothing in the world like delivering something to somebody, and they say, ‘I love it.’”
Hometown: Panama City
Family: Married to Alex Miller; two sons, Cannon and Steele Miller
Education: Texas A&M University, Moody College
Occupation: Entreprenuer, founder and president of Tube Dudes
Contact Loren Mayo at firstname.lastname@example.org