artist - musician - craftsman
and furniture maker
[August 8, 2021]
simply revland: revland galleries (2012-2017)
Negotiating with building owner Mr. Gil was no wienie roast. Originally from Winnipeg and of East Indian descent, Mr. Gil had the demeanor of the deplorable “Soup Nazi” from the Seinfeld sitcom. Whenever I left our negotiating booth from his restaurant in disgust, I expected him to yell out:
He was a disgustingly crude, little man, loathed by the merchants up and down Broadway as a slumlord personified. I was warned to stay away from this creature, but the historic Syndicate Building was in my crosshairs, and even if it took weeks to hammer out a deal, I felt I was up for the task.
Our negotiating meetings usually lasted about five minutes. And I’m quite confident I became a daily thorn in Mr. Gil’s side. [That, of course, was my game plan.] He invariably, during each visit, tried to intimidate me, and when flustered, made consistent attempts to humiliate me. That’s usually when I’d get up to leave ... anticipating very little soup in return.
I would have certainly preferred dealing with a commercial real estate agent, but it was what it was, and Mr. Gil, representing himself, was all that stood between me and my Broadway location. Within time, after a dozen or so meetings of negotiation, I would inevitably open the “Uptown Art Gallery,” kitty corner from the Ho Do, on the busiest corner of downtown Broadway.
Six months of renovation were now on my plate and, admittedly so, there were days that I questioned my lucidity. Thirty pounds would eventually melt off my midsection, a major renovation fringe benefit of necessity, and I’m quite certain this was the hardest I’ve ever worked.
The Uptown Gallery (before).
At the same time, I was recruiting artists to represent, and creating new furniture to exhibit and sell.
My wife, Mary, bless her heart, saw this adventure coming, and though concerned, swiftly endorsed the concept. I had warned her three years earlier, that when I turned 60, my plan was to open an art gallery, and sell my wares forthwith.
As I neared the grand opening, I experienced the same anxiety and excitement that I acknowledged as a child, as I unveiled my backyard projects to my neighborhood friends. This adventure, on the other hand, was unquestionably more “adult-like,” which would require a maturity level that I now felt was in my wheelhouse. Prior to opening, after a number of interviews, I hired Maren Day Woods to be my gallery director, a very wise decision for certain.
The Uptown Gallery (after)
It didn’t take me long to achieve a stable of 40 reputable artists, local and regional, to grace the walls and floors of the gallery. And, after 300 people attended the Grand Opening in September of 2013, I was a bit beside myself. I was humbled that so many artists put their trust in me, and I think the community was ready for another art gallery, especially in this choice location. I was also fortunate that I negotiated an “out” with Mr. Gil, by paying for the renovation (which I did on my own). If all else failed, I could walk away, after improving his building, which had stood empty for ten years.
I spent my mornings creating art furniture, and couldn’t wait to hang out with Maren in the afternoon. The Uptown was such a heavenly place, with saucer-like eyes lighting up upon entry. There was a remarkable variety of two- and three-dimensional work, so the gallery had a broad spectrum of color, texture, and shape. It was a good gig, and a community treasure. However ...
... after three years, at $6000 a month, I took that aforementioned walk and, along with it, the knowledge and experience to open my first “Revland” Gallery and Event Center. Less space. Less money. Same agreement.
“I will improve the interior of your building, with the option to walk away when I see fit.”
In both cases, the interior of these buildings was in a state of disrepair so, if I did take that walk, they’d have a leasable space and I’d be free to pursue other things. Essentially like “flipping” a commercial space, but utilizing it for my own pleasure after completion.
As I approached 2017, I was now presented with an opportunity that I couldn’t resist, so I took another walk.
Sixty-four is right around the bend, and as the majority of my friends are retiring, it appears I just can‘t seem to grow up. We just might be saying this 10 years from now.
Stay tuned for Chapter 27, as we approach the inevitable world of present day.