Going the Distance

Glass, metal, ceramics and contemporary paintings fill the walls, floors and even the ceiling of William & Joseph Gallery in Santa Fe.

Owning a gallery is a powerful fantasy. Newly minted art school graduates and young entrepreneurs daydream about expansive, carefully lit retail spaces filled with handcrafted objects that eager customers will immediately whip out their credit cards to buy.

The realities of operating a craft gallery, of course, are quite different. Negotiating leases, hiring employees, ordering products, cultivating both artists and repeat customers, marketing, advertising, and now a host of untested social media platforms to explore can make—or break—the most willing entrepreneurial spirits.
It’s a wonder how anyone stays in business over the long haul. How do long-time gallery owners do it? That’s the question NICHE asked of four gallery owners around the country who together have a combined 100 years of retail experience under their belts.

Mary Bonney, owner of the William & Joseph Gallery in Santa Fe, has just cut the cake in celebration of her gallery’s 10th anniversary. Sandra Randolph, of Good Goods in Saugatuck, Mich., has just passed the 20-year mark. Don and Cynthia Hoskins opened the first Earthenworks Gallery in a tiny space in Oak Harbor, Wash., in 1978, making them 30-plus-year veterans. And Audrey Parent, who runs Left Bank Gallery’s three locations in Wellfleet and Orleans, Mass., has been going strong for 40 years.

All four have had retail ups and downs, experienced at least one or more economic recessions, and dealt with natural disasters and personal crises, yet they have managed to create and continue successful businesses that have withstood the test of time.

For more of “Going the Distance” pick up a copy of the Summer 2011 issue of NICHE magazine.

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