Dave Loehr, owner of the James Dean Gallery located just north of the downtown event on Main Street, said he still meets Dean fans from around the world year after year. The gallery celebrated its 25th year in business earlier in September, and Loehr said events like the festival help keep his business alive.
“It brings a lot of revenue to the city, and the townspeople are all really proud of James Dean. He’s a nationally known icon, recognized around the world,” Loehr said. “It’s just kind of a neat thing that he came from this little Midwest town.”
Loehr grew up in Massachusetts and worked in New York City for a number of years. But he was eventually drawn to Fairmount because of his attachment to Dean, which ultimately led him to open the gallery. He said business can be slow, especially during the winter. The gallery really only sees about four good months during the summer and closes strong with the festival. But Loehr can’t imagine making a living any other way.
“The festival really helps. It packs the town. A lot of them stay down at the carnival, so we really never get jammed, but we get a steady flow of traffic,” he said. “It doesn’t pay very well, but I love what I do. It’s kind of like providing a public service.”
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