Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52asked if I would make a mailbox that looked just like my Dude and I thought that was just ridiculous,” he said. “But I didn’t know what to get her for her birthday, so I thought, why not?” Why not, indeed. With 5,000 cars passing her home every day, that mailbox Tube Dude became an instant celebrity. Commuters and visitors would stop to take selfies with the Tube Dude, often including a note to compliment the owner on her unique sculpture. “So I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was a ship’s captain, a yacht builder and a bodyguard. I had two little boys that I was not going to leave for any- thing in the world so I couldn’t do any of those things any more,” Gerber said. “That’s when my neighbor came to me and asked why didn’t I build these things for a liv- ing? She handed me 11 pieces of paper from people who had put them in her mailbox that said ‘Where did you get this? I want one.’ So I called all 11 people and sev- en of them bought at the same price I charge for them now.” Gerber enlisted the help of Laslo Szalanczy, a skilled welder at the yacht company, and the two began mass producing Tube Dudes in Gerber’s Garage. For someone whose past was solidly grounded on macho occupations, the transition to making stick figures from aluminum was admittedly a difficult one for Gerber. Little did he realize that the budding business was about to open his eyes to the opportunities around him. “I was having this huge pity party when people asked how I was doing. My kids were doing fine, we weren’t going to lose the house because my wife had a great job, and things were really okay. But everybody I ran into was worse off than me,” Gerber recalled. Determined to inspire others, he made four Tube Dudes to hold signs with positive messages like ‘Hang in There,’ ‘Be Grateful,’ ‘Think Positively’ and ‘It’ll Get Better.’ He placed the colorful Tube Dudes with their inspirational signs in the medians of busy Sarasota in- tersections to encourage all who passed. “I’d done that five or six times and was loading them up one Saturday afternoon when I heard a voice say ‘I caught you.’ This guy was wondering who I was and why I was doing this, so I told him the story,” he said. “The next morning my wife asked if I had seen the front page of the Sunday paper. There was the story about the Tube Dudes and the phone just started ring- ing off the hook because people connected with them.” As word spread about the aluminum figures, peo- ple everywhere connected with them. Gerber has now made more than 5,000 Tube Dudes and has shipped them to more than 48 different countries. You’ll find Tube Dudes in Australia, Norway and South Africa. Visit Paris and you’ll have fun locating more than 30 of the sculptures. “Parisians love Le Dude,” he said with a laugh. “Probably the one I’m most proud of is in Rome. I love Italy. When you go to Rome you look at all this beauti- ful art made from marble and granite – it’s larger than life and bright white or gray. Then you come around the corner and there’s a seven-and-a-half-foot tall hot pink flamingo. How do you not giggle at that? Despite copyrighting the Tube Dude design, imita- tions inevitably appeared. Gerber said the quality of an original Tube Dude is evident because of the art school graduates who take a customer’s ideas and carry them to the next level in a finished piece. Because Sarasota is home to the acclaimed Ring- ling College of Art and Design, one of the leading art schools in the world, Gerber has a ready supply of art- ists ready to help design each Tube Dude with a unique personality. “Those students spend, I think, one entire semes- ter studying only human anatomy. Not coming from an From pizzarias to bicycle shops, business owners order custom Tube Dudes to market their shops. 20