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Small Business | LEARNING CURVE: MISSION ART CENTER

The Supply Side : Owner's Art Takes Back Seat to Business

May 14, 1996

When Dale Boeck bought Mission Art Center in San Gabriel, he thought he would have plenty of time to pursue his dream of becoming a professional artist. But when the business monopolized his time and energy, he learned to take satisfaction in nurturing the center's gallery and helping his customers realize their artistic potential. Boeck was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.

Like every other artist out there, I expected to become world-famous, live off my art and retire a rich man. But that dream came to a halt very quickly when I realized I needed something to fall back on. So I went to work for an art gallery.

I had been coming to the Mission Art Center to buy my art supplies. One day I got to talking with the owner and on a fluke I said, "If you're ever interested in selling this place, give me a call." And he did.

I thought owning a business would allow me to achieve my dream of being a self-reliant artist. And now I could even buy my art supplies at wholesale prices! But pretty soon I realized that the kind of hours the store required would force me to put my work on hold. I may not have liked it, but I felt that I had to do it. I still saw the whole enterprise as an opportunity.

After I took the place over, I rented the space next door and opened a gallery. That is my favorite part of the business. I put up some of my work, but most of it is from local artists and other distributors. In the early years, I was spread so thin that I couldn't pay much attention to the gallery, but in the last couple of years I have tried to rejuvenate it. I've promoted it more and brought in more artwork for hanging and that has translated into more sales. I brought the gallery back because it was still near and dear to my heart.

In addition to the art supplies and the gallery, the Mission Art Center also does some framing and refurbishing work. It certainly gives me some security to know that if one part of the business is slow, there are other facets I can promote that will compensate for losses in other areas. That's probably the reason we're still in business. Some days a good framing order will come in and make our day when we've only sold $3 worth of art supplies.

There's definitely a lot of satisfaction in owning and running your own business. But my art certainly took a back seat to the business. Whatever was required by the business always came first.

I have not picked up a pen or a brush for my own purposes since 1985. For a long time, I thought it would get better as time went on, but I finally gave up on that. Now I feel lucky to at least be in the field, working with other people and their work.

I accept that I don't have time for my art, and I look around and think that things could be worse. I think someday I'll be able to get back to my work. The satisfaction I get is that I'm making other people into artists by providing their supplies and helping them get their artwork on the wall. That's why I stuck with it all these years.

On why he bought Mission Art Center . . .

"I thought owning a business would allow me to achieve my dream of being a self-reliant artist. . . . But pretty soon I realized that the kind of hours the store required would force me to put my work on hold."

On choosing his priorities . . .

"My art certainly took a back seat to the business. Whatever was required by the business always comes first."

On coping with the fact that his art career is on hold . . .

"The satisfaction I get is that I'm making other people into artists by providing their supplies and helping them get their artwork on the wall."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

Company name: Mission Art Center

Owner: Dale Boeck

Nature of business: art supply store

Location: San Gabriel

Owner since: 1977

Number of employees: three

Annual sales: $170,000

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