Mary Mackenzie Dunn

Everything Illuminated



As one of the nation’s premier neon artists and the owner of Roadhouse Relics, 

the neon art gallery that doubles as his workshop on South First Street, Todd Sanders’ 

story is literally glowing.

Sanders first rolled into Austin in 1992, when he was making his way south from 

East Texas on a road trip. Through a series of wrong turns, he found himself at the 

corner of 12th and Lamar, staring up at a neon bug that served as the illuminated sign for 

a convenience store. “At that moment I knew what I wanted to do,” Sanders says. Even 

though he’d spent a fair amount of time in alternate careers, he knew he wanted to be 

some kind of artist since kindergarten. A self-proclaimed “picker” in college, he would 

chase down scrap metal trucks, salvaging forgotten treasures and reselling them at a 

booth in the Canton Flea Market. Sanders then graduated to working for various sign 

companies around Austin. “I spent years learning the technical ways of the trade, and 

eventually opened my own sign making company.” In 2007 Sanders left the commercial 

world behind to turn his focus whole-heartedly to his neon dreams. 

His signs have been featured alongside some of the foremost contemporary 

artists of our time including Jasper Johns and Shepard Fairey, and his works adorn some 

of Austin’s oldest establishments such as Bouldin Creek Café and Doc’s Motorworks Bar 

& Grill. “I wanted to come to Austin because it was a place that allows you to go for your 

dream and to be an original,” Sanders says. From creating a gallery from scratch to 

creating his own genre of pop art, Sanders understands that ultimately its work ethic 

that makes or breaks an artist. “My competition is my own mortality. I did some soul 

searching to find what I really wanted to do with my life—the one thing I’d regret if I 

didn’t make it happen- and then went to work to make sure it would become a reality.”

Roadhouse Relics

1720 S. First Street