REGION — JT Pulford is mapping — quite literally — his way through North County. The entrepreneur and self-noted Jack-of-all-trades is the mastermind behind RadMaps, a series of colorful, cartoon-esque, poster-sized maps that detail businesses and eateries along coastal Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside.
He describes himself as a “pioneer of turning customers into advertisers” and said he has sidestepped “in your face advertising and marketing jammed down your throat” with out-of-the-box, flamboyant, comical characters — human and otherwise — that transform products and services into a megaphone for consumers to gladly share with their friends.
“Word of map is powerful,” said the Encinitas resident.
His frameable blueprints share wordless stories that serve as scrapbooks, time-capsules and “useful” advertising. Void of lines and dots, not a single destination is perfectly scaled. Pulford translates a comic-con reality into a “grass-roots authenticity.”
“Every RadMap creation is fun and easy to understand,” he said. “But most importantly every design is authentic. And authentic is the trait I feel best about.”
Pulford’s brainchild was inspired by a 1980s map displayed in Rico’s Taco Shop — an Encinitas landmark. While under remodel, he encouraged the “down-home” eatery to maintain its “Napoleon Dynamite feel,” and to “never, under any circumstance, throw away the map” displayed beneath the entryway’s countertop.
Pulford was secretly toying with the idea of resurrecting a modern version to showcase his beloved hometown.
“I knew I could improve the original concept by detailing local references and adding humor,” he said. “I’m an entrepreneur. I don’t always know where I’m going, but once committed, getting there’s easy. I’ll bulldoze and steam roll my way to any target. This map became my destination.”
With sponsorships noted as the clear path to his goal, Pulford walked Encinitas “up, down, left and right, canvassing every inch of this town.”
“I sold sponsorships door to door,” he said. “I became reacquainted with the old, discovered the new, met tons of interesting people and shared everyone’s cool story. I learned what small businesses needed and wanted. I gained enough insight to build a platform that would benefit both businesses and consumers.”
While the innovator charged forward with sales, marketing, art direction and creative input, polishing the virgin business model along the way, he handed the artistry over to artists to do “what they do best.”
“I jumped through hoops to gift and purpose a platform for mom and pop business to thrive,” he said. “Eighty-percent of my advertisers, even those that had been in business for 25 years, had never advertised before RadMaps.”
Pulford harnessed the local culture to display “whacky” ideas that provided value to each business.
“RadMaps isn’t about logos, buildings, buildings and more buildings,” he said. “Besides, how much fun can a simple logo in the corner of the map be? We took creative liberties to advertise business concepts — everything from the whacky to the weird.”
Pulford referenced Lobster West and Advanced Brokers Insurance as perfect examples of his efforts to do “something totally out of this world.”
“For Lobster West, we created a giant lobster holding a guy like a sandwich with the guy’s flip-flop falling off,” he explained. “For Advanced Brokers Insurance we drew a house with a car crashed in it with a guy hanging out the window — with no worries _ holding his policy. We took risks that worked.”
The former semi-pro skateboarder “sidelined by injury” also included his own cameo with an ESPN Skateboarding documentary reeling through the open roof of the La Paloma Theatre during its 25th anniversary celebration.
An instant hit, RadMaps garnered a cult following. Requests for future editions overflowed as Pulford not only expanded his territories, he “JT-ified” future editions through the world of high-tech.
The once “simple map” is now an interactive map — with a patent in progress — that immediately connects businesses with consumers. Pulford coined the term “SmartMap” to describe the interactivity between the poster, the app and the “real world.”
“The map has an app code that connects iPhones to websites,” he said. “The GPS works with a formatted version for social media with an embeddable link for connection. Simply point your phone’s camera at the map and tap any location. The SmartMap will provide phone numbers, address, hours of operation, menu options, reviews, directions and more.”
Pulford’s no stranger to patent recognition. Snapsho, his first patent, served as an internet-connected, handheld photobooth before the onset of smart phone cameras.
“Snapsho’s patent application has been referenced by the biggest companies in the world — Apple, Google, Amazon and more,’ he said. “Snapsho will be integrated into our RadMap platform to help people explore and discover each area.”
Despite stressful deadlines, Pulford said he’s having a blast. He said that RadMap is the catalyst for what the future holds.
“I created RadMaps out of my love for Encinitas,” he said. “The overwhelming response has been an unexpected bonus. My creations connect and entertain. That’s what I do because that’s who I am.”
Future plans include additional Carlsbad and Oceanside maps, a new Vista Map, and a San Diego Beer Map, and franchising RadMap models for towns across the U. S.
Pulford will host a Carlsbad 2020 launch party complete with music, games and prizes at The Windmill Food Hall on Thursday, Nov. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The event will be open to the public, for all ages and is kid friendly. There will be free posters, games, prizes, food, drinks, live music.
Lucia Viti is a seasoned journalist, photojournalist and published author who covers all regions in feature and news reporting. Sporting a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of West Virginia, she spent 20 years in New York in the fields of Public Relations, Advertising and Medical Communications. Her love for outdoor sports landed her in Carlsbad in 1999 where she segued into news and feature reporting. Her photographs are sold locally in artisan shops throughout the County.