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East County Friday, Mar. 22, 2019 4 months ago

Main Street's J&J Gallery closes in Lakewood Ranch

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Lakewood Ranch's only art gallery couldn't survive with its unique business model.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

After packing up his wife's artwork at J&J Gallery March 18 on Lakewood Main Street, Tara's Frank Iannello repeated a familiar theme for the day.

"We loved being here," Iannello said.

His wife, Sue Ann Iannello, had rented space to display about 20 acrylic paintings at the gallery, which went out of business a few days before.

The Iannellos were among the many artists picking up their work.

"It's a shame," Sue Ann Iannello said. "We really need an outlet for our work. This is such a good location."

Jennifer Perry, who said she managed the business for her mother, Judy Glimer, said they had tried a "different" type of business model that just didn't work. It was a membership gallery.

Perry said the artists were charged a small sales commission (Sue Ann Iannello said it was 10%) as opposed to the hefty fees of 50% or more at many such galleries. The artists then would share the cost of the facility's rent and upkeep.

"You need to have a certain number of members to make it work," Perry said. "In our second year (the business opened in 2017), we saw a decline. Unless you have deep pockets to cover that space, you have to make some big choices."

Sue Ann Iannello she tried to help Perry however she could.

"I kept refreshing my wall so people would see new art," she said. "And I prepaid to help with the rent."

She said the gallery worked for her after she took out a space last November. She sold one painting her first month and two in December. She was making good money and was surprised when the gallery closed.

"We had assumed they could pull it out," Iannello said. "They were hopeful it could keep going. And this was so convenient and such a beautiful area. But word got out the gallery was in trouble."

Sarasota's Richard Moravits displayed his mixed media art in the gallery.

"The markets are changing and unfortunately, it's not the right time for galleries in that area," he said.

His mother, Jeri Moravits said she thought red tide might have cut down on tourists and art sales for galleries throughout the Sarasota-Manatee area. 

Perry said she won't go back into the art gallery business.

"We saw so many art galleries (in other places) fail since we opened," Perry said. "Art galleries are failing unless you have well-known artists and the gallery is making 50 to 60% on a commission.

"People here just didn't spend money on the big ticket items. They would rather go to HomeGoods and buy a print."

When Perry opened the business in 2017, she told the East County Observer she thought “There are a lot of people here who want fine art, but do not necessarily want to go to Sarasota for it. It’s nice to bring it into their backyard, right where they are decorating these new homes.”

It was a disappointing finish for Lakewood Ranch's only art gallery.

Whether frustrating or not, Perry said she will miss having the business.

"We loved being part of this community," she said.

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