Opening my gallery . . . a lot of learning to do

For a couple years, friends and business associates urged me to make my photos available for sale. I had been fortunate to be invited to exhibit photos at venues around Central New York – a couple libraries, a Borders Book Store, and a local office building. Reaction was always gratifying, though few sales materialized. Was it because of the “display vs. for sale” nature of the exhibits? I didn’t know.

A little over a year ago opportunity presented itself. I needed a new office for my custom magazine publishing business. My search led me into the small village of Marcellus, NY. There, a “for rent” sign on a corner building in the heart of the village caught my eye. I peeked through the front window to see a small space and through a side window for a view of a second of similar size. “This could work,” I thought.

From my cell phone I dialed the number on sign. To my surprise a familiar voice answered. My potential landlord was a former client, a realtor for whom I had published a magazine.

My first inside look put my imagination into high gear. Oh, the space wasn’t much to look at and would need some serious renovation. Still, my imagination kicked-in almost immediately. The back office could easily meet my needs for an office while the storefront? Could it, maybe, just maybe, serve as a gallery?

The price for both was in line with what I would play closer to the city for half the space. For a one-year lease I could give the idea of making my growing portfolio available for sale. A deal was struck and the imagination continued in overdrive. And, the work began.

I hadn’t worked in a retail environment since a brief stint in the late 60s as a part-time shoe salesman in Dover, DE. At the time I was a full-time airman stationed at the local Dover Air Force Base. It would become increasingly obvious over the next months that I had a lot to learn. The first crash course would educate me on how much work would be involved in getting ready for opening day . . . which as it would happen coincide with the Marcellus “Olde Home Days.” Families from miles around would be in the village for most of the weekend.

While I had a couple dozen images mounted, matted, and framed from earlier exhibits, I didn’t have nearly enough, even for my small gallery. It was going to cost me a big chunk of time and a major crunch on my cash resources. I also soon discovered that being in the kitchen in two small businesses was just as demanding a you’d expect it to be.

We were ready by opening day, complete with finger food for our opening day visitors. “We” included my wife, parents, one of my sisters, and a couple good friends who were on hand to help us celebrate the opening. Oh, and customers. Real customers. More than my imagination had dared to anticipate. From the moment we opened the door a steady flow of customers kept us all busy, all day. When all was said and done seven framed images had been purchased. Again, more than my imagination had anticipated.

I could not have been happier. When pictures were sold off the wall, I immediately went into the back room and replaced them. In at least one instance the replacement sold within minutes.

What would tomorrow bring?