Artist Spotlight – Mike Schwabauer

Town Topic has been photographed countless times over the years. Everyone from amateurs to professionals have tried to capture the image of the well-know neon sign that welcomes those hungry for great food and bygone days.

Arguable, some of the most compelling photos of Town Topic have been taken by localTTSchwabauer 001 photographer, Mike Schwabauer. Schwabauer started his 23 year career at Hallmark Cards as an artist in the Lettering department. After that, he spent several years at Hallmark in technology and training roles, and was looking for a creative outlet outside his day job. Photography proved to be that outlet.

We recently talked to Mike about his love of photography.

What drew you to photography?

I got my first “real” camera in the 9th grade and have always loved taking pictures. It started more as “documenting life” (vacations, family gatherings, etc.), but in college I learned about it more as an art form. There’s a great combination of being able to capture things “as they are” or “as they happen” to be preserved for the future, as well as finding the fun or artistic angles and using modern technology to breathe additional life into the photographs.

You seem to have a love of neon signs. What is the appeal?

There’s something about the “grandness” of neon signs — a lot of thought and work was put into making them interesting and appealing. They really are works of art. Neon signs and marquees typically are very old, and the textures – fading and chipping paint, rusted metal, broken bulbs – just make them all the more interesting to me. Finding just the right angle for a shot, and then boosting the colors and the contrasts truly does bring new life to what may be a very dilapidated sign. It may not even light up any more, but I can help it shine again. It’s quite thrilling for me. And in some cases the signs that I’ve photographed have since been torn down, so the photos serve as a “preservation” aspect.

Why Town Topic? Was it a planned photo or did you happen upon it one day? 

I shot the Town Topic photograph on a whim about five years ago. My wife and I were in the neighborhood at the architectural salvage store across the street when I decided to run over and snap some pictures of the Town Topic sign. It’s actually the one that made me think, “Hey, I might have something here.” That’s when signs became the main focus for my artistic photography.

What do you like about Town Topic?

I love how Town Topic is holding onto some great, old traditions. It’s a little slice of the past in this crazy modern world. Oh – and I also love the Truckstop!

Visit and to purchase photos of Town Topic and other local neon signs, including Western Auto, Boulevard Drive In, Grand Emporium and many more.