Terry and Jennie Henderson, owners of Boulder Street Gallery, refuse to participate in the economic recession.
That’s their mantra. Every day they open their shop, which is actually located on Tejon Street, and imagine new ways to defy the lagging economy.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
They’ve expanded the business from a custom framing shop into a true art gallery and a business on the government’s A-list for artwork. The gallery also now makes indoor and outdoor signs and can reproduce art onto canvasses that can be stretched like oil paintings.
“Now, it’s a little frame shop with bigger possibilities,” Terry Henderson said.
In recent years, the gallery has been hired for large-scale art projects in area hospitals and corporate offices and is currently working a $50,000 project for the Mining Exchange Hotel on South Nevada Street to put about 250 art pieces in the hotel rooms and lobby, Henderson said.
“I don’t sit here waiting for people to walk in the door,” Henderson said. “I hit the phone, and I beat the path for the corporate work.”
Friends and family always told Henderson he was good at drawing and painting. In the late 1990s, he left a career as an electrical engineer and went back to college to study sociology and art. While in school, he worked for free at the Boulder Street Gallery in exchange for having his art framed.
“I saw that it was a business that was about to fail,” Henderson said. “I thought it could be something more in the long run.”
In 2000, Henderson bought the gallery. At the time it was located at 725 N. Tejon St. in a 1,000-square-foot space and had a few photographs for sale. Its only service was custom framing and it was doing less than $20,000 in annual revenue.
The small framing shop had originally opened in 1980 in a Victorian home on Boulder Street. But, when that home burned down and the shop relocated to its Tejon address, the previous owner kept the name and so did Henderson.
“From that point on, I started looking for ways to expand the business,” Henderson said.
It took two years of paperwork, but he finally landed on the General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule Contractor list — which means he can bid on government projects across the country.
It was a coup for his small shop and revenue quadrupled during the first year on the GSA contract list.
With the GSA designation, the gallery has worked on projects at Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, making signs and award boards. The gallery also has done work for government buildings in Maryland and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Oregon. In 2009, the gallery landed a big 9/11 memorial project in the headquarters building of U.S. Northern Command on Peterson Air Force Base. The project was a mural of New York’s skyline, two large acrylic flags, signs and photos.
“Because it is a secure building, we had to go in on Friday night and be out by Monday morning,” Henderson said. “I enjoyed being part of that.”
The gallery’s work and reputation has Air Force generals calling to see if Henderson can hang cannons and work on displays for aircraft memorials. He is currently bidding on a $25,000 project at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
It’s the government jobs that have helped the gallery’s bottom line increase each year, even in the down economy, Jennie Henderson said.
“It might start off as a frame job, but then we get hired for larger projects,” Jennie Henderson said.
In 2009, the Henderson’s took their next big step and gamble in business: They purchased an 8,000-square-foot building at 206 N. Tejon St. for $545,000. Henderson needed more warehouse space for the larger government and corporate projects. But, he also envisioned a large art gallery featuring the art of Colorado artists.
“I was looking for a place on Boulder Street,” Henderson said. “This became available and we could realize our goal of having a huge gallery for local artists.”
The couple did most of the renovation work on the building themselves, spending about $100,000 on floors, electrical wiring and lighting. They opened up the ceiling for more natural light and filled the gallery with artwork from 35 Colorado artists including jewelry, pottery, photography, mixed media, oil and watercolor paintings.
“I think people are more interested in local art than they used to be,” Henderson said. “They thought they had to go to Santa Fe or Taos.”
Henderson also invested in a 60 inch, 12 color printer, which can reproduce art on 4-foot by 6-foot canvasses. And, of course, he does all the framing at the shop, where he has 2,000 frames from which to choose.
“We like being hands-on,” he said. “I don’t trust any company to do the job we can do.”
In fact, custom framing is still the heart of the business, making up about 70 percent of total revenue, which last year was $350,000.
“It was hard when we first bought this building — that was right when the recession started,” Henderson said. “Looking back, we would have done the same thing.”
Jennie Henderson smiles at that comment and said, “We like the idea that we refuse to participate in the recession.”