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Thai, How Are You?

Landmark Daniel Johnston mural gets a touch-up

By Chase Hoffberger, 2:00PM, Wed. Aug. 28, 2013

Thai, How Are You?
photo by Chase Hoffberger

Daniel Johnston’s iconic “Hi, How Are You?” mural on the corner of 21st and Guadalupe looks set for some work. This time, hopefully, the fix-up’s more permanent.

According to David Roberts, who owns Thai Spice, the restaurant at 2100 Guadalupe, a restoration of the artwork – basically a cleaning coupled with a few careful brush strokes that should help offset a series of defacings – happens next week, with work on the painting being performed by local muralist Matthew Bonifacio Rodriguez.

“It will be the same mural, no changes to the form or any of that,” assures Roberts. “I didn’t know the history, and my wife certainly didn’t know the history. I had seen the mural and thought it was just one of those interesting quirks about Austin. Only while we were there and saw the attention that it gets every day did it start to pique my interest.”

Roberts looked into the mural’s history and eventually came upon Johnston’s website, hihowareyou.com, which helped put him in touch with two people: Dick Johnston, Daniel’s brother, and Heather Olson, an Austinite who’s worked with the Johnston family “for nearly a decade” on various marketing items like T-shirt sales. Together, the three decided to embark on the restoration.

Roberts’ research ultimately led him down the rabbit hole of Daniel Johnston fandom, which will soon play out in the branding of his eatery. In addition to the restoration, he’s planning to install a placard just underneath the mural detailing its history. The restauranteur is also working with the Johnston family to round up a number of pictures depicting the building’s history for an installment to go inside.

Roberts also told the Chronicle he’s planning to change the name of the place from Thai Spice to Thai, How Are You?

“We bought that place as a way to own a restaurant, and our vision for what it can and should become has sort of changed as we’ve looked at the realities of running a business in that particular location,” he says. “From that perspective, it made sense to incorporate the mural and play off it any way we could.”

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