Jeff D’Angelo had always planned to join his father’s clothing business. The South Scranton native graduated from Scranton Central High School then studied business at Lackawanna College with the intention of one day working for his dad. He did, but he also established Jeff D’Angelo’s Design Group, a “prop shop” where he is the creative artist and owner. He also works for Marywood University as the assistant chief of safety. He has two grown children and lives in the city’s Minooka section with his wife of 37 years, Diane.
Meet Jeff D’Angelo…
Q: Can you describe the work of Jeff D’Angelo’s Design Group?
A: If I’m doing a theme party, I’ll dress up and bring my actors, and we get the people involved. Part of our job is to get people dancing and make sure they have a good time. I’ll research a theme, I’ll print pictures out and look at them. I now have more than 90 themes and 10,000 props. I’ll make sketches, blow them up, put it on foam, cut it with an old-school handsaw and paint it.
Q: How did you learn about art?
A: I have no art background. I’m all self-taught. I look at different artists to see how they do it, and I try to copy their styles. There was an artist, Jack Davis, he used to work for Mad Magazine. I loved his style. My wife found out where he lived in Georgia and had him send me a birthday card. She said he was really nice. I said I needed to talk to him. I called him up and told him I was a self-taught artist and I asked him questions. He was nice enough to tell me things.
Q: How did you get interested in art, having never had formal training?
A: I always liked to draw even since I was a little kid. Whenever I went to a store and I wanted to buy a game or something, I was always attracted to the box that had artwork on it. I’d play with that toy then look at the box and try to draw what was on it. I used to color in coloring books when I was 4 or 5. I’d go around to my neighbors and rip the pages out and ask them if they wanted to buy them. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world until my mother found out. I just loved art.
Q: What is the most gratifying part about owning the design group?
A: My favorite part is when I take the finished product and people see it for the first time. I love when they say, “I didn’t know you were going to do this. It’s better than I expected.” That, to me, is the greatest compliment. The other thing I like is when people who really can’t afford art want to buy the art. If they can’t afford it and they want to buy something, they really must like it. The average guy who is just making enough money might ask me to paint him something. That’s more important to me than a millionaire asking me to decorate his room.
Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside the business?
A: I was a golfer back in the day. I was a half-decent golfer. I have not missed a Miami Dolphins game in 13 years. My family and I make sure that wherever we are at that point, that we schedule everything around the game. My daughter, my wife and I, since we’re in Scranton, we meet every Sunday to watch the three-hour game. My son lives in South Carolina. He watches it there. We consider it like a movie because we don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s full of excitement.
Q: Have you had time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
A: People will come over and say they love my stuff. I like just putting smiles on peoples’ faces. My parents taught me to be good to a janitor the way you would to a president. If your grandmother is having a 90th birthday, I’ll put the same blood, sweat and tears into somebody’s million-dollar celebration. I think that’s what shapes my life.
Photos by Emma Black