It’s the middle of 2012: do you know where your ambition is? Admittedly it’s been a hard couple of years for retailers. The recession that we’d been told by the National Bureau of Economic Research ended officially in June 2009 doesn’t seem like a thing of the past. It just keeps playing havoc with budgets, credit, leases and (especially critical to gallery retailers’ bottom line) consumer spending.
Anyone who’s ever been through previous recessions knows that they all end eventually. Hanging on, and diversifying your business offerings in the meantime, is key.
Two cases in point: working ceramic artist and gallery owner Jonathan Kaplan, and appraiser, art gallery owner and now author Karen Lorene. Long-time members of the American craft community, both are featured in this issue of NICHE magazine. In reading their stories, I can’t help but applaud their drive, their determination and their resilience.
Plinth Gallery couldn’t have looked like much when Kaplan first set eyes on it among the auto repair shops and salvage yards in an industrial neighborhood just north of downtown Denver. It wasn’t what he saw that excited him, though, it was what he envisioned it could be. He bought the property, spent almost a year renovating it to his exacting specifications, and opened it to fanfare and great reviews in June 2007.
Lorene started out as a Chicago schoolteacher, changed career tracks and moved her business multiple times—once unwittingly to a space zoned residential, another to a building with 25 intimidating steps just to reach the front door—before snagging the perfect home for Facere Jewelry Art Gallery, in the lobby of Seattle’s City Centre building, where she has remained for more than 20 years.
Both Kaplan and Lorene sell art, and successfully, but they excel in creating add-ons that are almost guaranteed to bring in repeat business. For Kaplan, that includes mounting special exhibitions and offering hands-on workshops conducted by ceramic artists with national reputations. Lorene cultivates collectors through monthly newsletters, annual themed group shows and an array of services including expert appraisals of antique and vintage jewelry, which is also part of her gallery mix.
These are two people who haven’t let a thing like a lingering recession get in the way of their plans. They’ve capitalized on their knowledge and experience to keep moving forward and grow.
In cosmic terms, it’s called stretching. And it’s always free to try.