If you’ve driven by Tito & Pep recently, you may have seen some really impressive mid-century modern artwork on the windows.
From afar, they look like permanent installations — as though they were built into the original design.
But they weren’t.
Three days before Thanksgiving, owner John Martinez was taking his daughter to school when he received an early morning message through Tito & Pep’s Facebook page.
The sender was driving down Speedway Boulevard and noticed eight of Tito & Pep’s windows were smashed.
A friend of Martinez’s also notified him. She had eaten dinner at the restaurant, which opened in early November on Speedway near Alvernon Way, the night before and misplaced her keys. She stopped by the next morning to search for them when she saw the windows.
Martinez immediately contacted the Tucson Police Department and headed straight to the eatery.
Surveillance footage shows a person in a hooded sweatshirt throwing rocks at the windows, Martinez says. Tito & Pep was the only spot in the area that was vandalized.
It’s hard to make out any identifying characteristics of the vandal, but Martinez is working with police to hopefully get the incident solved.
But as he coordinates with insurance and waits for the glass to be replaced, he had to do something to make sure the restaurant was still inviting.
“The most immediate solution was to cover the windows with plywood,” Martinez says. “But since we just opened, the last thing I wanted to do was make it look like the restaurant was boarded up and not available to customers.”
So, Martinez hired local sign painter Ashley White to help.
White, the mastermind behind artistry company Modern Aquarian, has created signs for many Tucson businesses including Ten55 Brewing and Arizona Wine Collective.
She also painted Tito & Pep’s main signage in September.
“The stars kind of aligned and she was able to come the following day,” Martinez says.
White says Martinez didn’t have any specific art ideas in mind — just that he didn’t want the plywood to make it seem as though the restaurant closed.
“He also wanted to send a signal to whoever did it — that they weren’t going to be defeated,” White says, adding that the artwork was a way of “turning lemons into lemonade.”
White knew she wanted to create something that fit with the theme of the restaurant, so she decided on mid-century modern cookbook illustrations.
Some of the designs were also inspired by the food on Tito & Pep’s menu — vegetables and salmon, for example.
Martinez says many customers have commented on the windows since White’s art went up.
He likes the paintings so much that he wants to find a way to incorporate them in the restaurant’s decor, even after the windows are replaced.
“We might add them to the wall on the west side of the building,” Martinez says. “Just to further draw people’s eyes as they drive down Speedway.”