How To Survive As A Gallery Owner In A Tourist Destination.part1

Opening an art gallery in Barbados in1970 was a brave decision; I had just returned from England as a qualified Teacher; took a job as a teacher and walked off the job after about one hour in my first classroom.

I knew I wanted to be an Artist and the thought did occur to me that if I stayed in that classroom, I might never leave.

No one knew me as an artist of had ever seen my work; Barbados Tourism industry was beginning to expand; but the market was still limited.

I knew that a pure art gallery would never survive. Every person has to eat but not every body needs art.

I found a small commercial building with two floors in the heart of the capital Bridgetown. The decision was to look for something that will provide cash flow and afford food and shelter until the gallery was in a position to satisfy all those needs.

The business plan was to open a restaurant on the second floor and the Art Gallery and gift shop on the main floor.

The local market for art was limited at the time so I went in search for a product I can sell to locals in the gift shop. Reggae music was my choice; the music shops were not selling reggae and the radio stations were not playing it.


The Restaurant
My choice when eating in restaurants was to eat a freshly cooked meal. I would always order something that I knew had to be prepared that day.

The concept for the restaurant was to have one special a day and served on that day only; If any was left back the staff was alloyed to take it home; but the volume of food cooked increases with the volume of traffic.
W hen the special was finished, we served steaks or hot dogs.

I ate at the restaurant every day; I later learnt that in addition to the food being tasty and the portions satisfactory, my being seen eating there every day from the menu was the key to the success of the restaurant. I later found out that some restaurant owners, if they do eat at their restaurants, they do not eat from the menu.

When the gallery was able to carry its own weight I sold the restaurant operation. My dislike of the restaurant business had to do with shopping every day; I hated it.

The Gallery & Gift shop

It is extremely difficult to operate a pure art gallery as an artist or entrepreneur; unless you have a fairy godfather or godmother with strong financial backing.

The gallery exhibited my own work plus works by other artist at a 35% commission, which was raised to 45% this year after nearly 50 years. Artwork was priced between $200.00 and $4000.00.
Some body might become rich from your work when you are looking down from above.

The gift shop carried quality gifts for both locals and tourists, which provided the gallery with a reasonable cash flow. The gifts included T-shirts; craft jewelry, ceramics, wood and metal and craft, wraps and antique maps and hand painted glass Christmas ornaments that sold all year round.

The concept described above it the same concept that exists today; My landlady would love to create space for a small coffee shop and snack bar. mainly to attract more traffic.


I felt proud when another gallery owner from another Island told me she modeled her gallery after my concept.