Article and Photos by Ron Ortiz
Among a row of retail shops on the north side of 4th Street, west of Main Street in Royal Oak, is a trove of Art Deco and Modern artifacts housed in a store owned and operated by DAADS member, Doug Ramsey.
Twenty-five years ago, Doug literally gave up his day job as a salesman and started the "Deco Doug" retail store. Prior to this giant leap, Ramsey began his business by setting up at antique shows while he maintained a small space in a Royal Oak antique mall. His first storefront business location was in the Birmingham area where many of his collector/customer base resided. After about nine years at the Birmingham location, his business seemed to wane while Ramsey's operating cost kept rising. Doug went looking and found a store in Royal Oak that fit his needs and his pocketbook.
The only concern Doug had with the location was the small frontage that could easily be overlooked by driver-bys and walkers. He put on his creative thinking cap and came up with the awning that still graces his storefront. Ramsey designed the black and white awning with deco-style lettering that seems to reflect both his business and himself. The original awning was replaced about 6 years ago due to weathering over the 16 years Ramsey has been at this location.
"Deco Doug" has become a fixture in the Royal Oak community as well as in the world of Art Deco collecting. Ramsey has a keen eye for the Art Deco and 1950s Modern style. He is an avid collector of industrial design pieces but enjoys most anything Modern and/or Art Deco. Like many collectors, Doug had amassed a large Art Deco collection that figuratively burst out of his living space in Dearborn. This overflow of collectibles led him to selling retail as a full time occupation.
A visit to the "Deco Doug" store offers customers an eclectic mix of articles that range from jewelry to radios to ashtrays to Art Deco figurines. If it's an accessory from the 1920s to 1960s, unusual or rare, Doug will have it for sale or know where to get it.
Don Wieland, a retired art instructor and fine artist with a passion for 1939 New York World's Fair items, discovered "Deco Doug's" in his search for those pieces. He purchased many such items from Doug and with a common interest in 1930s artifacts, Ramsey and Wieland soon became friends. Thus the painting of the Deco Doug storefront was born. Don took photographs of the storefront and then meticulously rendered the realistic artwork that appears on the cover of this issue.
Wieland was born in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Detroit at an early age. Don studied fine art at Cass Tech before going to work as a commercial artist specializing in automobile illustrations. Don's dad worked for General Motors and Don inherited his love of automobiles. Weiland moved to Windsor, Canada to teach illustrative art at St. Clair College and at the same time taught part-time at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. Don is retired from teaching and like Doug, gave up his day job to pursue his life's passion.
Working from photos that he takes on location or from those that are provided by clients, Don creates incredibly realistic pieces of art, mostly in oils. His mastery of automotive art has allowed him to work in both the national and international markets. Don was attracted to the originality of the "Deco Doug" storefront awning and chose to paint it for Ramsey. Both gentlemen are thrilled that the original oil painting is featured on the cover of this issue of the MODERN.
Although rendering oil paintings of classic automobiles are Wieland's first love, he works selectively on many subjects, ranging from portraits, classic cars, still life and cityscapes. Don's artwork is on exhibit at galleries in Royal Oa , and Birmingham. On yes, visit "Deco Doug" and see a number of Don's paintings there, including the "Deco Doug" storefront awning.