Photo by Madoline Markham.
Kathryn Keith, Laura Vogtle, Meredith Keith and Amanda Morrissette at Gallery 1930.
Retail pop-ups have been all the rage in recent years. Businesses essentially set up shop in a temporary setting, offering unique and exclusive items for sale. Target creates pop-up locations in Manhattan at Christmastime. Baker and cookbook author Dorie Greenspan did one selling only cookies. The allure of these limited-time-only ventures is that it allows retailers the opportunity to test the waters of their enterprises. Weeklong or month-long leases are a win-win for owners with vacant spaces to fill AND retailers looking to determine market interest.
This is the idea behind how Gallery 1930 came to be.
Located in the front half of a one-story white modern building at the corner of Cahaba Road and 20th Street South in English Village, Gallery 1930 is run by Laura Vogtle and her mother, Kathryn Keith. The gallery features the work of Laura’s sister, Meredith Keith. The paintings, some small, some oversized, feature a variety of scenes in black-and-white: a horse at rest, a downtown Birmingham city scene, a flower in abstract. The pieces are grouped in ways that gallery visitors and buyers can envision them at home on their own walls.
The building that once housed everything from a gas station to an insurance agency had been vacant for a while when Vogtle struck upon the idea of a gallery pop-up to showcase her sister’s work.
“Last fall, I called the number on the lease sign and spoke with the building owner, Al Rabiee,” she said.
They talked through the idea and worked out a deal, allowing a month-long lease of the building last winter. Friends and customers loved the space and how well it complemented the artist’s work.
“It was the perfect situation,” Vogtle said.
A short time later, Raibee, a successful Birmingham restaurateur, called Laura to discuss his idea for combining two businesses in the one space: a gallery up front and a restaurant in the back. He would need to build out the restaurant portion of the building to accommodate commercial equipment, which would take a little time. Was she interested?
No stranger to the Mountain Brook retail scene, Vogtle and her mother once owned and operated Laura Kathryn, an upscale women’s clothing boutique in Crestline Village (now under new ownership). From the pop-up gallery venture, Vogtle understood the value of the space and how well it suited their needs.
“It was Al’s vision to combine the space the way he has,” she said. “We complement each other perfectly. There is a door that adjoins the front and back. If his diners have to wait for a table, they can order a glass of wine and stroll through and see what we have going on in the gallery. For our part, we have been able to host private parties, and VINO can provide the food.”
This type of symbiotic relationship continues in the other items Gallery 1930 exhibits. Custom ironwork furniture and accessories by Anniston–based artist Lucy Smith are also on display.
“Her work is a natural fit to Meredith’s in this space,” Vogtle said. Visitors can custom order pieces or take home one of the select mirrors, coffee tables or side tables on display in the gallery. Several pieces feature the quatre-foil design, which is a prominent geometric element in her work.
John C. Jones, the southeastern representative for Freeman’s Auctioneers & Appraisers will also call Gallery 1930 his home. Having access to this space lets him bring in one-of-a-kind pieces for display and sale. Nowhere else in Birmingham can guests have access to the variety of photographs, paintings, decorative arts, and other antiques he is able to offer.
If the success of the Gallery 1930 Grand Opening is any indicator, this venture will be wildly successful. Approximately 1,500 invitations were sent out, with additional invites done through Facebook. More than 400 guests came through the doors on October 7, marking the beginning of something very special. VINO’s Mediterranean dishes were in play that night.
Both Al Rabiee and Vogtle see no end to the ways they can maximize the space at 1930 Cahaba Road and open house gallery events are only the beginning. Al has dreams of offering the terrace space to local produce vendors during warm summer months for a sort of ad hoc farmers market. He’d like to incorporate Stone Hollow goat cheese into some of the VINO menu items. And Laura knows other artists would love to be exhibited at the gallery. They both know the spot is perfect for unique holiday parties. Groups may choose to rent out one half of the space or both, have VINO cater the event and provide the wine.
Creating this space took genuine vision and more than a little trepidation. Gallery 1930 and VINO are joining forces, thinking outside the box, to create an enterprise that benefits not only the owners but the community as well.