Two years ago, Tampa photographer Shelby Boggs took a gamble. Inspired by the Kress Emporium, an historic building in Asheville, NC, that serves as a marketplace for more than 80 regional artists and craftspeople, she set out to create something similar (if smaller) in Tampa. Using some money she’d pocketed after flipping a house in the once-hot real estate market, she snagged a favorable lease in Hyde Park Village.
Boggs dubbed the location, once occupied by retailer Ann Taylor, the Tampa Artist Emporium and soon began renting wall and shelf space to local artists, who displayed their work. Monthly mixers and an open-door policy during the shopping district’s popular outdoor art fair led to sales. In relatively short order, Boggs’ pie-in-the-sky idea didn’t look so crazy after all.
But after about a year, the Emporium’s lease in Hyde Park was up. So Boggs packed up and—with help from her husband and some of the Emporium’s most devoted artists—moved to South Tampa’s emerging “design district,” where furniture and home décor stores dot the streetscape.
Though the new location, steps from Starbucks on Bay to Bay Blvd, has proven advantageous, somewhere along the way Boggs lost steam. When stress sent her to the hospital, she realized something had to give—so she put out an under-the-radar call to the Emporium’s artists (who number around 70), looking for someone to buy or help operate the business.
Sandra Jarrett, a painter and mixed media artist who has exhibited at the Emporium since day one, was quick to respond. The Tampa resident assumed ownership and asked Boggs to continue to run the Emporium as gallery director.
“She’s the right person, and it needs to continue that way,” Jarrett says.
On Saturday, the Emporium celebrates its second anniversary. The light-filled store—packed with art, jewelry, apparel, functional ceramics and the occasional piece of handmade furniture—will host a complimentary wine bar with food, gift basket giveaways, $25 portraits by Dave Pritchard and psychic readings rounding out eclectic offerings at the free event.
Looking back on her experience as an entrepreneur, Boggs voices astonishment at what’s possible “if you put your mind to it.” In two years of business, she says, the Emporium has sold more than $200,000 in artwork.
Cheers to that.
Related: Mix and Mingle, Tampa Artist Emporium opens in Hyde Park, Creative Loafing, Aug. 2007.