It was just last winter that ArtsEcho Galleria was featured in Palisade Magazine as a thriving nucleus of fashion, art, and the creative spirit that was bucking the “going out of business” trend in a tough economy. The gallery was flourishing, salaries and rent were getting paid, and an array of free performances delighted packed audiences.
But by the end of 2010, that will be no more – according to Sandra Bendor, shop owner and executive director of ArtsEcho, the charming shop on Park Avenue has come to the end of its “amazing and wild ride” in Union City and is moving across the river to Manhattan.
“I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken,” said Bendor last week. “My heart is here, but I couldn’t justify it monetarily.”
Bendor is optimistic that the end of this portion of the journey won’t mean the end of the positive energy that the shop helped send through the community.
But Bendor, a Weehawken resident, is optimistic that the end of this portion of the journey won’t mean the end of the positive energy that the shop helped send through the community.
She plans on bringing the works of many Hudson County artists to the new store with her and hopes that the next person to take on the location will do so with the same passion for the arts.
Dollars and dreams
The store in Union City is situated directly next to an empty site which has been under construction since Arts Echo moved in two years ago.
Bendor said she was told it would one day become the “Union City Arts Amphitheatre,” but the site – which once housed a gas station – has since gotten caught up in a web of lawsuits and reviews by the Environmental Protection Agency.
But while the pounding of construction and non-appearance of the arts amphitheatre aren’t ideal, Bendor said that’s not the reason for the move.
At the end of the day, it came down to the numbers and the desire to pursue the next phase of the business.
Bendor is now hoping to put all of her effort into furthering work with fine arts and her growing venture into sustainable couture which was showcased in a fashion show at the shop last May.
But she still thinks Park Avenue needs a funky boutique and hopes the area will thrive even if that boutique isn’t ArtsEcho.
Additionally, she believes in the burgeoning North Hudson arts scene which is sometimes overshadowed by the artist communities in nearby Hoboken and Jersey City.
“They’re doing a ton of art in Union City,” said Bendor. “I couldn’t be more admiring of what the city is trying to do. They’re doing more than any other place I know, but that did not help in our particular situation.”
Hopes for the future
ArtsEcho began as a non-profit organization created by Bendor and her husband, Ben, in 1987.
Over the years, they produced 20 original works aimed at educating as well as entertaining schoolchildren.
They eventually came upon the Union City property a few years ago when they were searching for new office space for the organization.
At the time it was a run-down storefront that once housed a dance studio. But, Bendor told The Reporter earlier this year, she envisioned a gallery, a performance space, and a shop for affordable treasures.
And soon that vision became a reality, pioneering a new business model for the arts. Since opening in 2008, the space has hosted a diverse array of free, public events from full scale cultural experience music concerts to sustainable couture fashion shows and has garnered a mailing list reaching hundreds of people from dozens of countries.
Bendor said she’s hoping to find someone to take over the store because though it may not be the right place for an eclectic venture of fine art, vintage clothing, and non-profit like ArtsEcho, it could be a great place for a regular clothing or jewelry store.
New York state of mind
Bendor said the shop across the Hudson River – located just around the corner from the Port Authority bus terminal – is already open and bustling with new sales and old customers, open six days a week for at least eight hours each day.
“The place in New York City is wonderful too,” she said. “It’s significantly smaller but I think it has a lot more opportunity.”
According to Bendor, in the city customers are more apt to walk in to browse and walk out with a $1,500 sculpture than they are along Park Avenue.
Plans for the New York City space include an art quilt gallery and some “edgy” events – think vintage fashion and “vintage” Rockettes.
The Union City store will meanwhile be the place for “fabulous” bargains for the next few weekends, according to Bendor, as well as perhaps one final “bang” of an event before the store closes for good.
For more information visit www.artsechogalleria.com or call (201) 617-8585 or (646) 692-6277.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.