When it comes to that 30-foot Indian that stands outside his store, Jim Sharizi pulls no punches.
After a week of having his prized statue painted by Oak Lawn resident Dave Ithal, the Cardinal Liquor Barn owner let the bragging begin. And he pulled no punches.
“It’s probably the most beautiful statue out there,” Sharizi said Friday afternoon. “I would like to see if someone could say there is a better statue. They can’t. I have the best statue in the United States. It’s iconic.’’
Better than the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center in Chicago?
“Forget Michael Jordan!” he said. “Who is Michael Jordan? This statue is better than Michael Jordan’s. His statue is only popular because of his sporting career. More people know about him.’’
Sharizi said bought the statue in 1998 when the Cook County Tobacco Warehouse closed its doors. Roadside America.com said that Big Chief was built in the 1970s by Creative Display, which is the same outfit that erected the world’s largest fish in Hayward, Wisc.
Big Chief is believed to be the largest cigar store Indian in the world.
In an age of political correctness with sports teams with Indian names and logos being asked to cease and switch, Sharizi said he has not heard a peep about Big Chief.
“No one has ever protested,” he said. “We treat this statue with respect. We are not using him to sell anything.’’
Ithal, the one-man painting machine on this project, is a longtime Oak Lawn resident who is not really a painter by trade. He is a carpet cleaner.
But he has enough painting chops to convince Sharizi he was the man for the job.
“He’s a customer of mine,” Sharizi said. “We talked. I told him I would pick the colors and I did a lot of research online. The last painter (15 years ago) made it very basic. I didn’t like that. This is brighter and more colorful.’’
Ithal said he was happy to take on this project. He had some hot, but dry weather to work with last week and at one point on Friday, he stepped back and took a look at the work he had completed, smiled and said “It looks great.’’
All week people have been stopping by 9630 Southwest Highway,to talk with Ithal and Sharizi about the painting project. Many others honked horns, seemingly in approval of Ithal’s work.
“I been driving by this Indian for years and I always wanted to paint it,” Itha said. “I’ve done a few other things --- I like doing art, but I’ve never done anything this big.’’