What a long, strange trip it's been.
When we started this adventure in 1979 we knew that
eventually there would be an end. A confluence of
forces, both economic and personal, has brought us
to the place of a sort of retirement, in August, 2018.
We don't have a brick and mortar location
anymore, at least not in the Short North. We will
continue selling on our website, which has become a
strong part of our business in the last few years. We
have made the move back home to Florida, where
Maria is from, and the family homestead is waiting.
It is with a touch of sadness that we make this
transition, but relief and gratitude as well. We have
left the Short North better than we found it, and
gained so many friends along the way. We have
witnessed a rebirth of a city, often led by the arts in
many guises. There are so many passionate people
there, fighting for a better place to live, work and play.
We had more changes as we started our 42nd year. We lost both Michael and Sisko within days of each other at the end of July. The house is much quieter, Maria is a lot sadder, but hopeful for the future. Stay tuned for more details, but keep in mind that we are moving very slowly.
Now I am starting the 43rd year of running this business and trying to be a creative person when it is hard. My mother passed in September and she was one of the reasons we relocated here. Yes, I have changed the tense, because it is not about us anymore, it is about me and that is kind of weird. Where do I go from here? I am (finally) setting my studios up. I want to find someone to go with the movies with me (grandnephews-in-law don't visit often enough). I walk my dog (Kira) every day and it is good exercise for both of us. I am looking for new artists, traveling a bit and looking towards the future. Hard to say where it will go, but for now I am here on the hill, watching the water and listening to the eagles chirp.
If you are on Highway 17 in Putnam County Florida some Saturday and see a temporary sign for an art gallery pointing down a narrow sand road, come and see us. We will be just north of Crescent City and just south of Pomona Park. There will be a jar of ice water and a chair on the hill. You can sit and watch the lake's colors change.
Where we began:
In 1979, Maria had an epiphany - the sudden clear desire to own and run a gallery, a gallery that would carry the paintings of her husband, Michael Secrest, as well as her own work; at that time she was making hand sculpted monster candles, but wanted to be making jewelry again. They both had lots of friends on the art circuit, so that seemed a great place to start.
Here is where it gets interesting. Maria's plan was to get a business degree, with an arts minor at OSU. Instead, while walking her dog Sadie in Tuttle Park she met a man walking his dog. This, that, and the other and Maria mentioned that she was going to open a gallery. The man, named Rick Matsa, had just bought a building north of Downtown at Buttles and N. High St. He offered rent of $100 a month, if Maria and Michael did all the renovation of the interior. When Michael and Maria went to look at the building, Maria realized it was a block away from a gallery that she had just noticed while passing through on the bus. This neighborhood had promise. The residential area was busy rehabbing. The sound of hammers and circular saws filled the air. The business district was distressed - years of neglect and of the street being closed during the construction of the convention center had taken its toll. It wasn't dangerous so much as really run down. Vacant storefronts nearly outnumbered active businesses. There were some great junk/second hand stores. A few good greasy spoons. Some truly scary bars. A couple of strip clubs. And a little pocket of cool retail, that included that aforementioned gallery - ArtReach Gallery, a UNICEF store, a general store, a stained glass gallery and a furniture store.
Something was going to happen here, but when was the question. Maria and Michael decided to give it a go. They signed a lease in January of 1980. Renovation took about six months - refinishing the floor, carpeting, new electrical, drywalling and LOTS of scraping and painting. They were finally open by the end of June. The Short North Tavern opened in May of 1980, taking the place of one of the truly scary bars, so progress was upon us already.
It did take years, though. In 1984, ArtReach lost their space when the furniture store bought their building and expanded to occupy the entire first floor. This forced a move into a freshly renovated storefront on E. Lincoln St. UNICEF also made the move to Lincoln, Ritchey's at 714 (previously Ohio National Coin Exchange) opened on the corner of Lincoln and High, Michael Allen Gallery took 716 N. High (ONCE's old location) and Handmotions (an airbrushed t-shirt shop) also opened on Lincoln. This was the critical mass that we had needed, so in October of 1984 we tried our first Cooperative Opening, on the first Saturday of the month. The Gallery Hop, named the following year, has happened every first Saturday since.
The Gallery Hop was a success from the beginning, and our business took off. Since then we have had good years and lean years, two kids, three more store dogs and a relocation of our own, moving to 1190 N. High St, just south of Fifth Avenue for 6 years, in a part of the Short North that was showing the same promise of the south end so very long ago. The new space was brighter, cleaner with a view of the street that includes Short North Stage at the Historic Garden Theater, a building that back in 1980 was a burlesque XXX movie house. It was fun while it lasted, but now we are in the Long South, charting a new path.