The new owners of the on Main Street in Port Jefferson are no strangers to the business. Sal Catalfumo and his partner in the gallery business, John Vassallo, know all about the artist, his detractors as well as the draw that he has on millions of collectors.
They also know a good thing when they see it.
Despite , the gallery was not another victim of a down economy. Former owner Mindy LaMantia had been in the retail art game for more than 21 years when she decided to call it quits.
LaMantia told Patch that her business was up “significantly.” She felt bad about leaving because many of her customers told her that the gallery was their destination for coming to the village.
“A lot of our customers are sad to see us go,” she said at the time.
Well, those customers can rejoice because the Kinkade Gallery is open for business again and the new owners are stocking the store with more of a selection than ever before.
Catalfumo and Vassallo both own four other galleries selling the popular painter’s artwork. With all those other stores, they’re able to stock multiple sizes of many of Kinkade’s paintings, more than LaMantia was able to offer.
“Five locations help us have more selection,” said Catalfumo in an interview at his store recently.
After years on Main Street the storefront needed some fixing up before they moved in. A new coat of black paint, a rug shampooing and some other cosmetic repairs to the exterior of the store and they were once again open for business.
Childhood friends from Brooklyn, Catalfumo and Vassallo have been selling Thomas Kinkade art since 1997. Catalfumo admits he’s not all that into other artists besides Kinkade. Before getting into the business he said his idea of art appreciation wasn’t much more than the average person. Maybe less so.
“We’re two guys from Brooklyn,” he said. “My idea of art was to take a thumb tack and put a poster on the wall.”
The excitement around Kinkade’s artwork is what motivates Catalfumo now.
“In the industry, it’s unheard of for an artist to maintain galleries devoted strictly to his own art,” he said.
According to Catalfumo, much of Thomas Kinkade’s sustained success has come about by marrying his own brand to other beloved company brands.
“He’s aligned himself with other major brands like Disney Elvis, NASCAR and New York Yankees,” he said.
The best selling works are New York City and Disney themed paintings.
“Disney is keeping some galleries afloat,” said Catalfumo.
One of the most popular new paintings is a movie panoramic from Disney’s The Little Mermaid featuring the characters and scenes from the movie. Canvas lithographs, hand highlighted with oils, numbered and signed by the artist are doing “dynamite,” according to Catalfumo.
He’s aware that the savvy marketing is not always appealing to everyone. Some people just dislike Kinkade’s paintings.
“But the people who like him outweigh the people who don’t,” he said.
Catalfumo points to celebrities who have purchased art from their other stores including Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jennifer Lopez and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as examples of fans of the artist's work.
Many shoppers come to Port Jefferson off the ferry specifically to buy Thomas Kinkade paintings with demand from Connecticut shoppers proving to be bigger than the owners ever expected.
“We’ve had a stellar month and a half considering that the former owner had a blow-out sale,” he said. “People were hungry.”
Offering a variety of paintings and being the only Thomas Kinkade Gallery on Long Island are two factors in why they did so well right off the bat, according to Catalfumo.
“Long Island could probably use four galleries and still make money,” he said.