Between paint sales, Mt. Prospect store is Lee DeWyze central

  • Longtime customer Pete Church, a painting contractor from Franklin Park, said he'd come into the store for paint, and stay to listen to DeWyze's latest song.

    Longtime customer Pete Church, a painting contractor from Franklin Park, said he'd come into the store for paint, and stay to listen to DeWyze's latest song. Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

Updated 5/10/2010 12:31 PM

Painter Pete Church leaned an elbow on a gallon of paint and admitted that Crystal Bowersox "is pretty good."

"No way," manager Mike Binek fired back from the other side of the Mount Prospect Paint store. "Bowersox isn't going to win."


Here, Lee DeWyze is the only contestant who matters.

Every day "American Idol" talk mixes in with paint orders at the place where Mount Prospect native DeWyze worked on and off for the past six years. He started talking to customers and tinting paint when he was a 15-year-old high school student.

"It's like he's an astronaut or something now," joked Church, who's known DeWyze for five years. "He's a good kid. I remember he always wanted me to listen to some music he had. I was like, 'Great, just give me my two gallons of white.'"

DeWyze, 24, is one of the final five "Idol" contestants and has been in the national spotlight since making the show's top 25 in February. If DeWyze makes it to the top three on May 12, Mount Prospect will have two days to throw together a Lee DeWyze celebration, which could attract anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 fans.

And the small paint store stationed between downtown Mount Prospect and Prospect High School would be the center of it all.

And it's ready.

A row of neon yellow "Vote for Lee" T-shirts lines, a shelf and the paint store's windows are plastered with signs congratulating DeWyze. This week, a shipment of matching baseball hats arrived and will go on sale along side the shirts.

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The store has sold more than 2,000 shirts, with proceeds going to Prospect High School and the potential hometown celebration thatcould cost the village $40,000.

So far, the paint store hasn't made a cent off DeWyze's fame.

Some think DeWyze got fired from the paint store before appearing on "Idol."

That's not true, said Binek, who added the store paid DeWyze $500 a week until very recently to support his "Idol" run.

"We're just doing this to support Lee," said Binek, who encouraged DeWyze to play guitar on Sundays at the store.

In the back of the store hangs a photo of Binek, Mount Prospect Paint owner Bill Lagattolla and a 16-year-old DeWyze, posing around a customer service award. DeWyze is in the center, and all three are wearing gray paint shirts.

"I'm just happy people are finally seeing how good Lee is," Binek said. "And people haven't seen anything yet. He's even better."

Some days Binek and Lagattolla field hundreds of calls from DeWyze fans. Callers want to know what he was like as a paint sales clerk and does he have a favorite paint color.


Which, Binek will tell you, he does.

It's tangelo, a bright orange. Years ago, DeWyze painted a circuit breaker box tangelo and it's been his favorite ever since, Binek said.

"I know he gets nervous on stage, but when he was here, he was in his element," Binek said. "He joked around. He felt comfortable."

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays Binek and Lagattolla walk over to the Blues Bar in downtown Mount Prospect and join up with other "Idol" fans.

DeWyze calls them every Friday to check in. While they want to hear about "American Idol," that's not what DeWyze wants to talk about.

"Lee just wants to know what's going on at the paint store," Lagattolla said.