JONATHAN CRAM'S five businesses help in art in Asheville thrive
Owner: Jonathan Cram Types: Art, Craft & Clothing Galleries
INSTINCT: I hear you run something like five businesses. How do keep from going postal on a day-to-day basis?
JONATHAN CRAM: My partner, Matt Chambers, and I have been traveling
recently and that always adds to our work stress. Most of the time, the
businesses have a life of their own. They all have great managers or
directors. Matt has been the director of Bellagio Art-To-Wear for 12
years; we’ve been together for 14. The fifth business, Bellagio
Everyday, opened July 4th and I would not have done this without Matt’s
keen interest. The yearly special events include: a craft fair in
August, show openings at Blue Spiral 1 every seven weeks, an annual
garden tour of our home for charity and October trunk shows in
Bellagio. So there’s a lot on the plate, but the art and craft world is
exciting. We have just started representing international designers in
Everyday, and meeting these people from exotic parts of the world is a
new high for us. So growth keeps us engaged. Matt thinks I should
mention that we have “martini hour” every night to prevent from going
postal. [Laughs] We don’t, but I can stretch truths for the fun of it.
I don’t see how you do it. One job is enough to make me stress out and eat Twinkies all night.
I usually touch base with every business at least once a day and catch an evening sales report. Bellagio Art-to-Wear is Matt’s child. I am more avuncular in that business relationship. Next to Blue Spiral 1 is the newest “baby,” Bellagio Everyday. I find that entity precocious, beautiful, smart-looking and a joy to visit. I try to play fair. New Morning was the first and has been remodeled and added on to at least ten times over its long history. It generates the largest income, so it needs to run smoothly, so I sort of co-manage that store.
Do you find that gay business owners are a little more detail-oriented?
Display is crucial to art and craft galleries. In the clothing stores, Matt pulls all-nighters, especially when we have trunk shows and when the seasons change. In Bellagio Art-to-Wear, he uses many high-end craft objects to juxtapose the clothing, hence visually creating the metaphor. Yes, I am a detail freak. I think objects in a display need to have a relationship: two tea pots pointing their spouts at each other. Objects need to communicate to each other; a display needs to tell a story. I ask [the workers] if they ever played with dolls in childhood. This is to stimulate creating relationships.
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After all, presentation is everything. Your stores seem to marry the idea of art becoming fashion and vice versa. Is the best art wearable? Are we just walking canvases? And do you need a male model, because I need to talk to my agent first.
Two of my four businesses are related to clothing: Bellagio Art-to-Wear and Bellagio Everyday. The Everyday is less a gallery, as we are buying from small design houses but have a unique spin on it, of course. Craft is often personal. Drinking from a wine goblet or using a coffee mug, our lips touch the handmade object. But when you are involved in selling clothing, the customer gets naked and is enveloped in the passion. Very sexy. Have I told you that my business card for the new Bellagio Everyday has my name on it, and below where owner would go, I had printed “Man of the Cloth”? It gets a good smile, and that is always good to reinforce a new business identity.