Retailer Spotlight: Blue Pomegranate Gallery

Retailer Spotlight: Blue Pomegranate Gallery

Sondra Gerber, Omaha, NE

Blue Pomegranate is all about "Art that makes you smile." We look for quality fine arts, fine crafts and jewelry that truly do make people smile. It is wonderful to see people's expressions when they walk in the door for the first time - and we can always tell when they're new - they look like a kid in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory! It's great! We look for art that is colorful, whimsical, uplifting and unique. We like to support art that has recycled or up-cycled elements to it and it's fun to let customers discover the recycled parts of the art. We love sharing stories with our customers about the creation of the art and about the artists.

Describe your gallery.

Blue Pomegranate was founded in 2001 by Sondra Gerber and Anne Nye. They initially worked together, collaborating and inspiring each other and using the gallery as a workshop a show space. As they grew in their careers, their ideas for the gallery evolved and changed. They showed more local artists' work. They began to sell their work on a national level. Anne Nye, a well-respected kiln formed glass artist, eventually left the business partnership to focus on wholesaling her work on a national level and teaching workshops around the country. Sondra Gerber, a nationally known metal sculptor, also focused more and more on selling her work on a national scale and decided to hire a manager for the gallery. Around this time, she also began buying art from Wholesale Crafts and other resources, expanding her vision of the gallery to include American handmade art, rather than just local art.

Again, the gallery continued to evolve and grow and Sondra's husband, Jason Gerber became more involved by adding high tech touches including POS system and a new web store. When they made the decision to relocate their brick and mortar after 13 years, he and Sondra designed and constructed much of the new gallery from the fixtures to the signage, making it a truly unique place.  

Year Founded:
Square Feet of Retail Space:
Why did you decide to open a gallery?
Originally named Blue Pomegranate Studio, this business started as a working space with a small gallery, which had a goal of creating, promoting and selling 2 artists' work. The focus changed in 2010 when one of those two artists, Sondra Gerber, became sole owner.
How many artists do you represent?
Around 120.
How do you promote your artists/gallery?
Blue Pom relies primarily on word of mouth and social media. We do an occasional Facebook boost or print ad, but other than that and email, we don't pay for advertising. This method is easy on the budget and works great for us. We also have an excellent, high traffic location.
What percentage of merchandise is made in the U.S.? Canada? Imported?
American handmade, with a few talented Canadians in the mix.
What trade shows do you attend?
What attracts you to new merchandise?

We look for what fits with our gallery: upbeat, whimsical, colorful - art that makes you smile! Above all, we're looking for professional quality at a reasonable price and hand made in America.

Do you consign?
Do you sell online?

Yes, we started our online sales 2 years ago. We are constantly working on expanding our online sales and the products offered on there. We are really happy that our point of sale system, Lightspeed, enables us to quickly and easily update our web store and tracks inventory in real time both in store and online. And we have chosen Shopify for our webstore, again, easy to navigate, interfaces with our POS system, etc.

What is your shopping routine on IndieMe?

We do everything from keyword and artist searches to viewing the featured ads and artists on the main page. We also like the 'new artists' and 'new product' features that keep us updated on the latest products available.

Who generates the biggest sales for you? Tourists? Locals? Repeat Customers? Collectors?
Omaha is becoming more and more of a tourist destination, with for Berkshire Hathaway weekend, the Olympic trials and the College World Series. We generally have a local crowd, including the small towns that surround our metropolitan area, but we are seeing more and more people who come in wanting something locally made to bring home from their travels. We do have a strong, loyal following of repeat customers. We offer things they have never seen anywhere else and they all know to come to us for a wonderfully unique gift or work of art. And they love to tell their friends about us! They bring them in to share their discovery! Our online gallery has been bringing our gallery national recognition by collectors as well.
What retail price point sells best?
On average, we sell under $100 range very easily as an impulse buy or gift. The more expensive pieces, up to $4,000, naturally take a little longer. Midwesterners are conservative and they have to think about higher priced items, maybe consult a spouse or designer. Often, having an expensive "Show piece" helps sell the less expensive art and eventually, the show piece sells as well.
How is business? Any thoughts for the future of craft galleries?
We have steadily grown for the past 16 years. We took a big leap of faith and relocated to a high-end shopping mall on the Western edge of Omaha 3 years ago. Traffic and sales have greatly increased since the move and we see more blue skies ahead! As far as a future for craft galleries, I believe those that offer a good mix of art and craft and gift items can grow and thrive. It's about managing the cash flow and resources and having a deep understanding of how to operate a business as well as having a passion for what you do and keeping your finger on the pulse of the market. What's new? What's next? Keep changing and keep growing. That's what makes any business successful. If you stop looking for the next best thing, you're dead in the water. We work hard to find what our customers will love and to keep our prices reasonable while still making a profit.
What advice do you have for new craft galleries?

Know your market. Know your potential clients. Hire quality staff - family and friends may fit that bill, or they may not. Be objective and make choices based on what's best for the business. Buy work you have faith in. You can't sell it if you don't truly believe in it. Watch your bottom line and your cash flow. Take the money from the great months and save it to get you through the lean months. Consignment is a good idea for keeping costs down, but purchasing outright is also good and you have to figure what the best balance is.

To keep new things coming in, often purchasing is better because it's not easy to keep artists rotating their work so you have new things for your customers. Customers should never be able to come back and visit their favorite piece over and over like it's in a museum. You need to keep switching things out so they realize they need to buy what they love when they see it. Move everything in your gallery at least once a quarter so it looks fresh and new when people come in. Then they have a reason to visit more often. Better yet, make sure you do often have new items for them to look at. Have events often. Artists creating in the store are a great draw for customers. And don’t underestimate the power of social media. It’s free advertising and a wonderful way for you connect directly with your existing and potential clients.

What advice do you have for new craft artists?
Do what you're passionate about. Work to make a long lasting, quality product. Watch the trends in your craft and try new things. Create your work with love - it shows in your art! Ads on do actually catch my eye and I look at what's new. Take good photos of your work. This is almost as important as creating your art. If you can't show how amazing it is in a photo, how can you sell it to anyone online? Keep your prices online and at art fairs and shows at least as high as galleries would sell them for retail. Often, this will be 2-2.5 times your cost. 

This is a transparent world, if someone who likes your art at a gallery looks you up online or finds you at a local art fair and finds out they can buy from you for significantly less than they bought at the gallery, you just discredited the galleries that support you. Everyone needs to make a living, so why not sell your art at the same prices as the galleries? You make more profit that way and keep the galleries happy. And the same for artists as far as social media goes, it's free advertising!

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