After 20 years in the same 4th Street storefront, Lynn Merhige’s art gallery will lock up for the very last time Aug. 31.
It’s a bittersweet moment in time for Merhige, a clay artist whose grandmother bought the building, including the site of the long-gone Orange Blossom Cafeteria, in 1926.
Her father opened the cafeteria in 1936, and later sold it to his cousin. When the cafeteria closed, the business became Orange Blossom Catering, also now closed. The cousin recently sold his majority in the building to Hollander Hotel owner Michael Andoniades.
The smaller portion, including the 500-square-foot, glass-fronted home of the Lynn Merhige Gallery, was jointly owned by Merhige and several other relatives.
“They kind of were all ready to sell,” Merhige said. “But I wasn’t – I thought we should look into some other options. But that didn’t happen.”
And so she took the buyout, rejecting, she said, an offer to stay in the building for one more year – at a higher rent.
“I’m just not selling enough artwork here to be able to do that. There’s nothing on the sidewalk, no people going by. It’s really been a tough year.”
Although most of the artists whose work was on the Merhige walls have already come by to pick it up, there’s still plenty of art – available at 40 percent off. Merhige will be open for business – and to say hello and goodbye – during today’s Second Saturday ArtWalk (5 to 9 p.m.).
“What I’ll miss is the association with the artists, who were able to show their work and have openings,” she explained. “It’s just a great thing to be able to have that interchange. I’m not a person that likes anything online, where selling work is so impersonal, it seems to me.
“I did art shows for 30 years, outdoors, and what I like about it is the personal contact with people, so you know where the art is going. And that’s what I like about the gallery, the fact that there is the personal connection.”
Anyway, her own art isn’t going anywhere. “I still have my studio at home, in the garage. I still do clay work and do shows.
“But I’m also 78 years old. I keep saying I should retire, but you know, artists don’t retire. And I thought that I would be here forever. I thought since I owned the building, there wouldn’t be a problem. But you never know.”