Daughters, do you love your Mom? Would you work for her? Would you have her work for you?
This is not a theoretical discussion at the West End Gallery. Mom Lynn Gardner and daughter Jesse Gardner (left) pulled off an owner/employee flip earlier this year, and Mom now reports to daughter.
They both admit that it’s not a scenario that would work for everyone.
“I love it. But she and I have an especially close relationship. I know other people could not do this,” Lynn beams as she talks about her daughter/manager. Jesse worked in a Corning shop in her youth and left the region for a while. But home tugged at her heart and, a few years ago, she and husband John returned with a plan to assume the family business.
“I loved Colorado, but a part of my soul was missing.” Jesse relates. “It was the gallery.”
The West End Gallery had its birth in 1977 in another location, under a different name. It was primarily a framing and art supply store, but the family felt very strongly about showcasing local artists. A few pieces here and there have morphed into a formal two-story gallery with proper staging and space to highlight more than a dozen regular contributors.
Lynn points out paintings, sculptures, glass jewelry, and custom furniture with the genuine pride of a patron. “We have some artists who have been with us for thirty years. They exhibit in large cities and have collectors internationally. But we were their jumping-off point.” In fact, Jesse says, “We like to think that we helped them become nationally known. We are their home gallery.”
The entire display is changed out every six weeks to keep the visuals fresh. Mother and daughter credit a shared vision with keeping that process from becoming a version of Family Feud. “We are so in tune to each other that I can almost anticipate what she is going to want next,” Jesse says.
A multi-generational business in a field that the Gardner women admit is “a luxury” is bound to have some lean years. Lynn offers a small smile when she says, “It’s been a roller coaster, and there were times when I wondered if we would make it.”
And now? Thirty-eight years later, how does it feel to know you have built something that thrives under the guidance of your child? Lynn’s smile is as brilliant at the artwork. “It’s too wonderful to describe.”
Jesse’s happiness is palatable. “I’m hoping to take this place to sixty years. At least.”