Retailer Spotlight: James A. Michener Art Museum - Doylestown, PA.
The massive stone walls and warden’s house that make up the core of the James A. Michener Art Museum today began as the Bucks County prison in 1884. After a century of use, the abandoned and antiquated buildings were being torn down when the County Commissioners agreed to preserve the historic landmark and lease the land and buildings to house the new museum. After extensive renovation, the museum opened to the public in September, 1988.
The Doylestown, Pennsylvania-based museum has 35,400 square feet of space, with a landscaped courtyard, an outdoor sculpture garden and terrace built in the original prison yard, seminar and conference facilities, a museum shop and café, and the George Nakashima Reading Room. The Martin Wing includes state-of-the art preparation areas and collection storage spaces. Today, the old Bucks County jail, once a place of fear and despair, has been transformed into a welcoming center of culture and beauty… guarding the artistic soul of Bucks County.
Describe your gallery.
Our Museum Shop focuses on artisans from our local region, but also features work from makers around the country. We carry pottery, blown glass, jewelry, and wearable textiles
The Museum was founded in 1988. The Museum Shop opening in 1993
Square Feet of Retail Space:
Why did you decide to open a gallery?
A Museum Shop is an important revenue generator. The public also enjoys a little shopping after visiting the galleries…and taking home a memento of their time here. When they purchase something handmade, they feel like they are contributing to the Museum and supporting artists.
How many artists do you represent?
At least 50. We are always adding new people.
How do you promote your artists/gallery?
Being within a broader institution, we are able to reap the benefits of the marketing efforts of the Museum. When we have an extremely popular exhibit in the Museum galleries, the Museum Shop has lots of exposure. We have had some very successful trunk shows with some of our local artists. Facebook and Twitter also help to get the word out.
What percentage of merchandise is made in the U.S.? Canada? Imported?
About 80% of our gift, jewelry, and textiles are made in the USA.
What trade shows do you attend?
What attracts you to new merchandise?
We love finding new artists with a fresh new perspective. The merchandise needs to be perfect. Don’t present something less.
Do you consign?
Do you sell online?
The Museum Shop is part of the James A. Michener Art Museum’s bigger website. On it we feature the Museum’s publications. Since so much of what we have from our artists are one of kind pieces, it is difficult to maintain an online shop.
What is your shopping routine on Wholesalecrafts.com?
I look at each email from Wholesalecrafts.com and might click through to look more closely at the work of a particular artist. I do look for regional artists on the website several times a year. I select Pennsylvania and New Jersey as my primary searches. If the Museum has a particular exhibit coming I want to coordinate merchandise for the shop. Months before the exhibit I will do a keyword search to see if there is anything relevant. For example, there might be a quilt exhibit coming and I will look for items that would fit into the plan for the shop during that time.
Who generates the biggest sales for you? Tourists? Locals? Repeat Customers? Collectors?
It all depends on what is going on in the galleries. We have a nice size base of museum members who visit time and again. They love the shop and will stop in to see what’s new- sometimes from a particular artist. When we have popular traveling exhibit, we will have thousands of visitors who have never been to the museum before. They like the unique items we carry.
What retail price point sells best?
I think $35.00 is a great price point, but we can have a group of $200.00 necklaces that we cannot keep in stock. It is surprising sometimes.
How is business? Any thoughts for the future of craft galleries?
Business is great! I think people want something handmade and local. We have many visitors from overseas who want to bring home something made here. I think there is always a need for craft galleries. Online shopping can be fun, but there is nothing like holding a piece of handmade pottery and feeling where the maker had her hands, buying a pair of earrings that no one else will have, or bringing home a hat that isn’t in the local mall.
What advice do you have for new craft galleries?
Haunt the local craft shows. Tell the artists you have already found that you are looking for more artists (they always know someone.) Contact local art schools and find out if they have a way of posting requestsfor submissions to current students or alumni. It’s not easy to promote yourself when you are busy with the day to day. Put some money into your budget to hire a marketing person. There are plenty of people out there who have small marketing businesses and are looking to take on small accounts. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce. See if there are events you can tie into (First Fridays, Gallery Crawls, Art Festivals, etc.)
What advice do you have for new craft artists?
Don’t be afraid of calling galleries and museums. Have some great photographs of your work that you can email. I don’t necessarily meet with everyone who calls me, but I do look at websites and photographs that are forwarded to me. Send postcards – they are inexpensive to produce. Be consistent, persistent and remember that not every artist is a fit for every gallery. Stand behind your work. If something breaks fix it for free.
~Hollie Brown - Director of Visitor Services, James A. Michener Art Museum - Doylestown, PA!
*If you are in the area pay their Museum and store a visit, or go to their website and check them out: WWW.MICHENERARTMUSEUM.ORG
We are excited to have them pre-registered to join us for ACRE Philadelphia, February 14 - 16, 2015!