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Angel's Tire Shop is Pilsen's most eye-popping attraction

The corner of 18th and Leavitt is a vehicle for Angel Salgado's kitchen-sink approach to ornamentation.

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If Pee-Wee Herman practiced Santeria, his playhouse might look something like Angel's Tire Shop and Grocery Store. Screaming from the corner of 18th and Leavitt, the exteriors of the adjoining storefronts, painted in eye-popping red, yellow, and spearmint green, are covered with strings of Christmas lights, shiny rims, American and Mexican flags, a portrait of the Virgin Mary, an anthropomorphic sun sculpture, a rusted gargoyle, and a pair of large toy vehicles.

Owner Angel Salgado opened for business in 1990, and he took his decorating cues from his native Iguala in Guerrero, Mexico, which is known for its vibrant artisan community. Throughout the years, updates to the two storefronts have been a community-wide effort; local artists painted a life-size tiger on the doorway, and Salgado liked it so much he had them create other works for the garage and roof.

"My dad appreciates art," says son Michael, who spoke on his father's behalf because the younger Salgado is more fluent in English. "He gets the art from all types of places—sometimes people sell it to him, sometimes he just finds it on the street."

Michael, 21, and his brother, Ricardo, 24, both work at Angel's, where they can do a tire change in under five minutes. The shop operates 24 hours a day in the summer and from 6 AM to midnight the rest of the year. Meanwhile, mother Alicia manages the grocery, which stocks folk-art curios alongside packaged goods.

Have an unusual observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? zoomin@chicagoreader.com.

Correction: This article has been amended to reflect the correct spelling of "Guerrero."

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