As AVP Senior Creative Director at Maui Jim Sunglasses, David Stotz directs the “face” of the brand globally through all creative efforts, from store and fixture design, to creative campaigns and communications, to international and corporate events, and beyond. His career has taken him all over the country—including stops in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Cincinnati—as he lent his talents to the likes of Caesar’s Palace, The Sharper Image, and Bath and Body Works.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Stotz studied fine arts and art history at the University of Louisville School of Art and Murray State University. He and George Traylor, his husband and life partner of 21 years, came to Peoria in 2010, settling into a beautiful Georgian Revival-style home in the Randolph-Roanoke neighborhood. A Peoria Symphony Orchestra board member and certified Master Gardener, he enjoys tending to their elaborate backyard garden and spending time with their three puppies. He is also an incredible cook and host, creating elaborate, themed meals for numerous grateful guests.
“I love the people most of all,” Stotz says of life in central Illinois. “I’ve had the pleasure to meet and get to know some of the most amazing humans. Peoria is a city where you can really make a difference. It’s just the right size to allow each person to contribute to its success.”
- Words to live by: I’ve never learned a thing from my own opinion.
- Favorite vacation spot: My own home. There’s nothing like a “staycation” in my opinion. I don’t get to just hang out at home and enjoy being there. Plus, I get to spend time with my animals and the garden and truly relax. Too often I need a vacation after my vacation.
- Person who’s had the greatest impact on my life: My Grandmother Stotz has by far been the most influential person in my life. I had a very special bond with my grandmother. I loved being in her company and she taught me so many things.
- What is your most marked characteristic? Probably my mustache. Yes, it would have to be my mustache. Certainly not my sardonic wit. Ha! Ha!
- Favorite splurge: My garden has to be the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. I truly spare no expense because it is my gift to myself. I have this compulsion to create it. I love being in it. I don’t watch television. I can sit in my garden and watch the birds, the bees and the wildlife endlessly. It’s quite relaxing. So I indulge myself in it.
- Favorite film: Pride and Prejudice. I think I’ve seen every version ever filmed. I absolutely love it. I have a tendency toward the classics in most everything I do. Period pieces and historic novels are always my first options. I just think they tell stories differently than we do today. I like the romance, the fantasy, the message of love conquering all.
- What is your biggest pet peeve? Mispronouncing the word Bruschetta! LOL. It’s Italian, not French. Actually, there’s no excuse for bad manners and poor social skills in my opinion. I enjoy being in the company of people who understand the importance of gracious civility and genuine concern for others.
- Secret ambition: Well, everybody wants to rule to world.
- What is your favorite occupation? I have never met a chef I didn’t fall in love with! What a fantastic profession: to make food for people. I think cooking for others is always such a gift.
- Biggest hurdle you’ve overcome? I was the victim of a hate crime that almost left me dead. So coming back from that assault was so much work. I didn’t think I would make it. I lost parts of my memory that I still can’t recover. It is life-changing to be close to death. It alters your psyche. It challenged my perception of myself for years afterward. I carried it with me everywhere. Coming to terms with it, rising out of victimhood was the most important work I’ve ever done.
- Most impulsive thing I’ve ever done: Well, I’d have to say it was when I joined a nudist colony! I was moving to Phoenix and looking for an apartment quickly because I had to be there in a very short timeframe. There weren’t a lot to choose from in my price range and available. The one I fell in love with just happened to be a group of apartments surrounding a large open courtyard. When I went to see it in person, the owners informed me that it was a clothing-optional complex. So I said what the heck! There’s nothing there I haven’t seen before. So I rented it! A whole new chapter in my life!
- My life won’t be complete until I... write a cookbook! I’ve always wanted to showcase my favorite recipes. Not just that—maybe more of a coffee table-style book with pretty table settings and some of my Sunday recipes. You know, something like that.
- Three things I’d want on a deserted island: This is always a funny question. I guess that I would want fresh water, a chicken and a rooster. I think I could be pretty happy starting off with those three things. I’m sure I could make fire and build shelter. But I’m pretty sure I would have to have eggs and roasted chicken.
- Famous person, dead or alive, I’d like to meet: Hands down, I’d love to invite Maya Angelou to dinner and cook for her.
- Favorite album: My whole life, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album has been my favorite. It has gotten me through so much in my life. It still does.
- Favorite retreat: I love the mountains more than oceans. I prefer trees to waves. So I always seek the higher places when I can. My favorite high place continues to be Idlewild, California, in the mountains above Palm Springs. I would often escape there to refresh myself and get away. I’m sure if it was any closer I’d still be going there.
- What is your most treasured possession? My great-grandmother’s wedding ring. It’s an ounce of gold. I wore it all the time. I lost it once in Kentucky Lake. I almost died. But after careful diving, I found it in the mud and have never worn it again.
- Who are your heroes in real life? Anyone who gives of themselves to help others, people who show more compassion than judgment. I admire people who can see beyond themselves and see value in everyone.
- Most humbling moment? Surviving the AIDS crisis in the ‘80s. I cannot tell you how humbling it can be to watch almost every person that you know die of a disease that nobody wanted to cure. I was treated like a leper. It was horrifying. I don’t know how I survived. I really don’t.
- What’s been your most difficult decision? To stay or to go. I’ve moved so much for my career, and every time it is such a hard decision to stay or to go. You build a life where you are and when you have to leave it behind, it can be a hard choice.
- Easiest decision? To fall in love with Georgie.
- What is your favorite childhood memory? Picking violets with my grandmother—just the two of us in a big open field. It was glorious.
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I’d love to control time. I’d like to be able to warp it, slow it down, stop it, bend it. How amazing—and think about everything that we could achieve with that power!
- What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day? I love to come home and spend time with my puppies. I like to make a cocktail and just get smothered in puppy kisses.
- What’s next? Something new and wonderful… I’m sure it’s a mystery waiting to be solved. PM