Retailer Spotlight: SeaDragon Gallery

Retailer Spotlight: SeaDragon Gallery

Eve Turek - Duck, NC

Describe your gallery.
I actually own two galleries on the Outer Banks of NC: SeaDragon Gallery in Duck, and Yellowhouse Gallery in Nags Head. SeaDragon has always showcased fine American craft since its founding in 2000. We bought the gallery from the founder at the end of 2015. Yellowhouse Gallery began in 1969, initially to feature the founder's watercolor paintings, and over the years its offerings grew to include antique prints and maps as well as reproduction posters and prints. We bought the gallery in 2005 and gradually changed its emphasis to local art. Now, Yellowhouse concentrates on local fine art photography and American and regional craft.
Year Founded:
SeaDragon: 2000 and Yellowhouse: 1969
Square Feet of Retail Space:
Both stores have approx 1500 square feet each of retail space.
Why did you decide to open a gallery?
My husband and I decided to purchase both galleries, first, out of respect for each of the founders and what they had created. I grew up in a house furnished with early American antiques; art and fine craft were very important to my parents, and my mother took up oil painting in my childhood. She always encouraged my own creative explorations and regular visits to antique stores, craft fairs and demonstrations and the art and history museums in downtown Washington DC were an integral part of my youth. I am a professional landscape and wildlife photographer, so one motivation included having a gallery of my own to feature my own work alongside the work of others I admired and respected.
How many artists do you represent?
SeaDragon represents about 90 artists; Yellowhouse represents 35-40.
How do you promote your artists/gallery?
We use a variety of promotional tools from traditional print advertising to social media. We list both in an annual gallery guide for the area; we buy individual store advertising in local publications geared to the resort area visitor; we have active Facebook pages and websites for both businesses; we create and list events on area tourism web pages; we place a double sided rack card featuring both locations in our area welcome centers and we are members of our area Chamber of Commerce, the Duck Merchants Association, and the owners' associations where both stores are located.
What percentage of merchandise is made in the U.S.? Canada? Imported?

99% of everything we sell is made in the US. We do represent one Canadian jeweler and at times, one Canadian potter. We have one fair trade jeweler from Central America and one fair trade candle maker, from South Africa. 

For our US merchandise, we represent original artwork in oil, watercolor, acrylic and mixed media as well as photography; we also represent artisan and high design jewelers (both handmade and limited production), potters and ceramic artists (functional and sculptural, wheel thrown and slab-built, in stoneware, hand painted bisque ware, porcelain, and crystalline glazing), woodworkers, carvers and turners (birds, fish, clocks, segmented bowls); metal artists (sculptural), fiber artists (scarves, necklaces, purses, hand-painted silk lampshades, socks); and glass artists--both decorative stained glass and functional and sculptural art glass (cairns, lanterns, pumpkins, blown ornaments, candlesticks, bowls, goblets, sea life including octopus, hermit crab, sea turtle, fish,and jellyfish, hummingbirds, other birds). The variety we are able to showcase without the store looking over-crowded is what keeps our customers returning every year! 

What trade shows do you attend?
We attend ACRE in Philadelphia. I also attend retail regional shows from which I have sometimes been able to find jewelers or potters willing to consign work to us. I also make an annual trip to Seagrove, NC which is known as a pottery center for the southeast and visit potters in their studios.
What attracts you to new merchandise?

We have a varied clientele as you will see below. So what I am looking for is something fresh and fun that we haven't seen before. I am not generally interested in someone who is doing essentially the same thing as someone I already represent. I strive to keep our store attractive with a balance of familiar and fresh, so there is something for my long-time collectors as well as the visitor who is new to the shop, or is looking for something not available anywhere else.

Do you consign?
Yes we do. I love to consign for several reasons--it allows both the artist and myself to tweak our offerings and make sure we are stocking the items that are the most marketable. It is worth giving up a percentage of our sales revenue for that flexibility and ultimately that practice has resulted in higher sales for both my artists willing to consign and for the shop as a whole.
Do you sell online?

We do not have a shopping cart feature on the SeaDragon website. I do have that capability on the Yellowhouse website, but it is limited almost exclusively to works on paper (reproductions of artwork or photography).

What is your shopping routine on IndieMe?

I spend a lot of time on the website, and have given my staff access as well. Typically I check out the what is new section first to see if anything catches my eye. I check the pages of artists I already represent to see if they have new work or designs; that is one key way an artist can stay with us for the long term, by keeping their own work fresh. I search by keyword when I see by my sales that I need to augment my offerings in a particular area, say sterling silver jewelry as an example.

Who generates the biggest sales for you? Tourists? Locals? Repeat Customers? Collectors?
Both shops are located in a resort area highly dependent on seasonal tourism. Our busiest months are May-September, with July-Sep being the most lucrative. So visitors to the area are the source of our largest sales in terms of volume. Repeat customers, both locals and visitors, make up a sizable percentage of our overall sales volume and biggest individual sales tickets.
What retail price point sells best?
That answer really depends on the item. For example, for photography and reproduction artwork, a price point around $50 is golden. What I notice more is a ceiling. We have very few customers who will spend more than $350 on an individual item; most items in the store are under $200. We do have a few very high end lines and pieces, but we wait for just the right person to take those home each year.
How is business? Any thoughts for the future of craft galleries?
I am living the "Location, location, location" mantra. Business in Duck, where our shop is located along a bustling, beautiful sound front boardwalk, is fabulous. Our Nags Head location is much slower; we are part of an older retail shopping plaza that does not attract as many visitors as it once did. As other businesses leave that plaza, those of us who remain work even harder to keep the overall center attractive to potential customers.
What advice do you have for new craft galleries?

Rather than giving advice, I tend to ask questions: what do you love? What do your friends and family and neighbors love? What can they afford? What are you personally willing to pay for what you love? Not all of us have the same tastes. But it is important that new gallery owners be cognizant not only of their own loves but what others value also. Do you--and does your potential clientele--have champagne taste? And the budget to match? Handmade does not have to be expensive, though it can be. Is there anyone else in your region offering what you want to offer? If yes, you might not both be able to thrive. If no, can you build interest in your area in merchandise that is handmade, that will likely cost more than the mass produced goods available everywhere, including the internet? 

Speaking of the internet, thanks to sites like ETSY, folks can now shop online for handmade goods. What level of personal service will your gallery provide, that will draw folks to you instead of shopping online? How involved do you plan to be in the day to day running of your business? The feedback you get from spending hours behind the counter is invaluable...but if you are an artist yourself, be aware that this will pull you away from devoting as much time to your own creativity. Artist-owners need to find balance between both so that both their own art, and their galleries thrive. This is a lesson I am still learning! 

Finally, remember you are in essence a steward. You are representing in some cases years of sweat equity in learning, training, practice, and refining a high level of mastery and craftsmanship. Get to know your artists and their stories. Be the bridge between the customers and the artist who created the piece they are considering purchasing. Call your artists when big pieces sell--don't just send them reorders--and let them know how much their work was loved. You are a matchmaker; you get the thrill of watching folks fall in love, day after day, with the work of someone else's hands. So share that love and joy, both ways.

What advice do you have for new craft artists?
Be true to your vision. There ARE customers for your work--but not in every store, or every area. Remember you are an artist. When I choose you for our gallery, I am betting my own money that your work is a good fit for us. When you establish with a gallery in an area, don't trot down the street and sell your work there also. You are competing against yourself--and if it appears your work is commonplace, the draw to purchase may diminish. Give the gallery who commits to you, whether via wholesale or consigning, a chance to market you and your work before placing somewhere else in the region. Give your galleries exclusivity, and assess with your owners at the end of each year. 

Try not to get your feelings hurt if your work is not a fit in every place. I always try to think out loud with artists who approach me even if I know they are not a fit for my shop, so they can establish themselves in the best possible place for them. And if you sell your own work, for goodness sake don't undercut your galleries! The worst thing you can do is price something for 100 in a gallery and sell it on the side for 50, and I have had that happen, primarily with younger artists newer to the business. Everyone loses then--and the work loses its value as soon as you devalue it in the eyes of potential customers. 

Don't sell yourself or your work short, but listen to experienced owners if they tell you they cannot move items at the price point you wish. They know their market better than you do, and it may be that if you want to remain firm on a price point, that you will have to forgo gallery representation and sell the work yourself--in essence, making your income from being both the maker AND the marketer. Trust your galleries to know what is best; after all, if their artists don't do well, neither do they. Be realistic about how much you can produce. Don't over-commit and under produce; while life circumstances can happen, and a good gallery owner will understand that, constantly being behind in filling your orders won't lead to repeat orders as owners learn to take their business elsewhere. 

Be realistic about turn around times, and if you must miss a shipping time frame, let your gallery know immediately so they can adjust. Finally, be open if a gallery owner offers consignment. My consignees receive a higher percentage than they would if they sold outright at wholesale; that is the advantage to them. Being able, as I said above, to fine tune selections for maximum sales makes for happy customers, happy artists and happy owners! 

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