Sometimes, despite the economy, a small business might actually outgrow its space and even though an owner is comfortable in a particular location, he just has to start thinking bigger.
Take John Diaz for example. Diaz owns Imagine Art Gallery in Port Jefferson village. He’s been at his location in Chandler Square for seven years and before that, the space housed a different art gallery.
He’s the first person to tell you that the storefront has been good to him. There’s plenty of foot traffic. A corner store with a walk though. And he’s certainly got “equity built up” in his store, as he put it to Patch recently. You could say that it’s a part of art history in the village.
Diaz weighed all those factors against his need to expand his business and move to a more visible location and came to an inevitable conclusion.
“It’s a good time to make a move,” he said.
This week, Imagine Art Gallery plans to open its doors a hop, skip and a jump away from its old Chandler Square store to East Main Street in the same place that Lavender Fields used to occupy, across from the new home of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
Diaz envisions the corner of East Main Street and Main Street in the same way many others are picturing it: a new cultural corner in Port Jefferson. He hopes his gallery will become another important piece of the emerging puzzle.
“It creates a cultural destination in Port Jefferson for people to enjoy arts and culture,” Diaz explained.
If it is a puzzle that’s finally coming together on that corner then the Long Island Music Hall of Fame is a big piece and Imagine Gallery joins with Toast, the funky, hip breakfast place that already features a monthly rotating art show curated by Robert Edwin from FRESH Art Long Island.
In addition to featuring artists like Barbara Bilotta a Mt. Sinai painter who creates abstracts in acrylic and Sandra Mattei, a realist from Blue Point, Diaz’s gallery has featured artists with a connection to the music industry, making a good fit with the Hall of Fame.
This summer, Imagine teamed up with Schafer’s like Eddie Van Halen and Ringo Starr. He’s also featured the work of twin brothers, Ocean and River Clark whose art includes portraits of pop music stars.
Is now a good time to expand, especially with the temperate economic outlook? Diaz thinks so even if his business is tied to economic cycles.
“All businesses go through recession or seasonality,” he said. “It’s a given.”
Art is considered a discretionary purchase and Diaz certainly felt the impact of the latest downturn because a lot of his business is tied to activity in real estate. When people move into new homes they need to put art on all those bare walls and in the past they’ve turned to Imagine Gallery to help decorate them.
Things are looking up. Diaz says that he’s been doing more art instillations in new homes in the past 12 months than in the previous period.
But he also has other ideas. He wants to feature more local artists and he wanted to be on Main Street to increase visibility. Diaz is working with Artisan Direct, a company that looks to promote local artists on a national level. Imagine Gallery will be using its new space to find local talent for the organization.
Over the past seven years Imagine Art Gallery has grown in spite of the economy and sees this move as the culmination of that growth. He thinks that the trend is all about local and is investing in artists as well as his new location.
“People come into the gallery to see local scenes or local artists,” Diaz said. “There’s a movement to support local art and the local economy as well.”
Imagine Art Gallery will be holding its Grand Opening on Oct. 13 in its new space at 415 East Main Street in Port Jefferson with food provided by Tequila Jack’s.
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