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Bursting With Pride: The Side Garage in Des Moines, IA



Happy Pride Month, Yelpers! Each June, celebrations around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Just as these events honor the struggles and advances of the gay rights movement, Yelp would like to celebrate how businesses with queer connections have shaped the cities that they call home. Follow along all month as we profile some of America’s top LGBTQ small business owners, all Yelper approved.

You have heard of a, “mover and shaker,” right? Well I would like to introduce you to a couple of, “movers and makers.” Ashleigh Brady and Elena Leon have been popping up around Des Moines with their mobile screen printing operation for a couple years now.  The Side Garage is dedicated to thoughtful design, quality craftsmanship, and story-telling. Their mission is to create, collaborate and encourage the community to create. The Side Garage wants you to be a part of the process. With a mobile screen printing station, they pop up shop at festivals, weddings, birthday parties, live music events, grand openings and more. They give guests the opportunity to experience the joy of printing their own product, teaching you how to screen print on the spot and coaching you through the creation of a great looking shirt or print that you helped make. How cool is that! I got to ask Ashleigh a few questions about their incredible on the go business!

Q. Ashleigh tell us a bit about your story, how you met Elena and decided to start The Side Garage?

We met back in college at Drake University. We were both part of athletic teams and had a few crossover classes. After going our separate ways in life (Ashleigh pursuing a design career here in Des Moines and Elena going on to play professionally overseas and then live in CO) – we reconnected roughly five years ago and, as they say, “the rest is history.” Three years ago, Ashleigh decided to leave her current job in an attempt to figure out what was next. After taking some time away from screen printing, she realized how much she loves the process. After several late night “dreaming and scheming” sessions, we finally decided to take the leap with The Side Garage. Our vision was to create something that brought people into the screen printing process in hopes that it would do several things, including:

  • Create a sense of community
  • Create a sense of awareness for what goes into the silk-screen process
  • Encourage/inspire people to make things with their own hands

While we feel like we are tapping into these results, we hope to continue to build upon them in the coming year and provide even more experiences for our community.

Q. You have such a unique business tell us a little bit about live screen printing and why collaborating with your customer is such an important part of what you do?
Our live screen printing model is our way of breaking down the barrier between a “customer” and a “supplier of a good.” It allows us to serve a community in a more direct way by connecting them with them in a manner that provides a fun, educational and hands-on experience.
And to answer your question about collaboration — we feel as though our city and beyond is full of incredibly talented and forward-thinking individuals. By placing collaboration at the forefront of our approach, we are letting people know that we see their vision and want to contribute to it to the best of our abilities so that we can all continue to strengthen the community of people around us.

Q. I really love keeping up with your blog and really dug a recent post about, “Living in the Middle,” as a middle child, from a middle class family, from the midwest it really hit home. Tell us what you love about living and working in Des Moines, Iowa.
It would have to be the people. We feel as though we’ve settled into a community that is supportive and challenges us at the same time. We love that there is a wave of people stepping outside of their comfort zone to push the boundaries of what is considered “normal.” And we also love that they don’t dismiss where they come from and pay tribute to their roots.
Q. Your designs always have such a beautiful classic vibe to them, with a positive message. I think your designs really tell a story. How do you accomplish that? 
It’s kind of the style we’ve decided to own and work hard to do well. We feel as though simple images are easier to connec tto and stand the test of time. We aren’t always successful at it. Like every design studio, there is a graveyard of files that never see the light of day. However, we are constantly drawing inspiration from the things around us that pay tribute to or come from that simple industrial or 70’s era.
Q. People can catch you at the Des Moines Farmers Market this summer, where else will you be popping up shop for the community to collaborate with you? 
We are collaborating with some really great people, including breweries, The Des Moines Art Center, The Science Center of Iowa and Good Vibes Yoga just to name a few. Here’s a full list of our calendar of public events in June.
Q. Finally your adorable dogs Pete and Thulee run your, “HR,” department! Are they keeping up with your busy schedule? 
Now that they don’t have to pick up the slack when I was working my full-time job, they’re living the dream. They’ve enjoyed extra walk time and designated frisbee breaks to keep them active and happy during the day.
Learn more about The Side Garage on their Yelp page, plus you can keep up with their musings on their own blog.
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