Put on a Happy Face
Zahra has known Messmore since he was a high school kid waiting tables at a Dexter restaurant. And Messmore, in turn, knows Boston brothers Bert and John Jacobs, who created the Life Is Good line of feel-good message T-shirts. He says the Jacobs brothers wanted him to come to Boston and work for corporate, but "I told them I was living the dream, teaching Spanish at Saline High School," which has been his day job since he graduated from U-M five years ago. Buying the store (which isn't a franchise per se, just an agreement to sell LIG products) was his solution.
Messmore is a man of almost preternatural energy and goodwill: with his wiry frame, closely shorn hair, and wide grin, he looks like that smiley stick figure that appears on a lot of LIG clothing. And his sunny optimism is just the icing on a keen business acumen. While still in college, he bought his Main Street condo above Starbucks. He can't quite remember if it was bought solely on the proceeds of working "about a hundred hours a week" waiting tables at the Red Hawk, or if by then he had also gotten into day trading, where he also made a small pile. Along the way, he started a computer service business that he runs out of another Main Street address.
The LIG store is just a sideline, largely staffed by his past and present students. Messmore proudly pays the $10.10 an hour that he hopes will become the national minimum wage, and some percentage of store profits are kicked back to a Life Is Good foundation.