Port of Call Furnishes Locals with Art and Decor; Combining Art with Home Furnishings, a Small-Town Gallery Is Dressed for Success. (Strategy)

Article excerpt

One-stop shopping isn't a unique concept if you're talking about a mall, a full-service grocery store or even a Wal-Mart. But when it comes to an art gallery, the concept takes on new meaning.

In July 2001, Tony Blomfield and his wife, Deborah, decided to take on the challenge of creating a shop unlike any other in their hometown of Warwick, N.Y., a picturesque and fast-growing town situated 60 miles north of New York City. Located in an historic, three-story building, their operation, Port of Call, houses a furniture store on the ground level (run by Deborah) and a 3,500-square-foot art gallery on the second level, which Tony oversees. Along with art and furniture, Port of Call offers a full range of fine art reproduction and custom framing services.

"Our view of the total enterprise was to create a platform where we could provide services, merchandise and a platform for community involvement," said Tony. "We thought we could provide a holistic approach to home furnishings. You never quite know what you're going to find or what to expect."

Deborah concurred. "We have something for everybody, and we cut across all price points. Keeping the inventory fresh and different is what's key, both upstairs and down."

It's a retail strategy that has proven successful. The ever-changing gallery gives Port of Call's regular furniture customers a reason to come upstairs, and the variety of offerings encourage browsing among customers who come in for the framing services. "I have framing customers who have come upstairs, seen something and said, `I can't not have this,'" said Tony. "And clearly they didn't come to the store with the goal of buying a piece of art. But everything is intended to leverage everything else."

Starting Port of Call was a departure for both Blomfields, who had no prior retailing experience. Tony was vice president of education services for a multi-national consulting company headquartered in Montreal; Deborah was in real estate. With the arrival of a young son (now six), Tony's weekly commutes to Canada grew increasingly tiresome. "I felt there was an opportunity that couldn't be missed to spend time with him," he said. "My wife had a good sense of the community and the development going on, and commuting three minutes versus three hours was a no-brainer. We really just jumped in and learned as we went along."

In its first year of operation, Port of Call's gallery has become a mecca of sorts for local artists, not to mention art-loving townspeople. More than 20 local artists, including Robert Lundy, Marilyn Bridges and Gary Genetti, are represented, as well as national and international artists. The work ranges from $50 ceramic pieces to $6,000 prints. "There's a diversity of work here; we're not committed to one particular genre," said Tony.

The gallery does, however, concentrate on two distinct bodies of work, according to Tony, the Resident Collection, which features an ever-changing portfolio of work by local Hudson Valley artists, takes up half the gallery's space. The other half is devoted to exhibitions by national and international artists, as well as prominent locals.

"We have a pretty vibrant collection of artists, and part of the gallery's objective is to provide a platform to show local artists' work," said Tony. "What we're [also] really trying to do is bring interesting and challenging work to the community, which people wouldn't otherwise get to see." Examples of such art include exhibitions from contemporary Cuban and Hungarian artists. …