The Canyon Gallery, Devoted Primarily to Photography, Opens on Main Street in Montrose
by Beverly Corbell
Jul 30, 2010 | 2555 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GALLERY GATHERING – Pausing for a chat at the new Canyon Gallery during the Business After Hours event on Tuesday were, from left, Katie Smits, gallery owner Amy Harmsen, Lu Anne Tyrrell, and Ken Brengle, CEO of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism. (Photo by Beverly Corbell)
GALLERY GATHERING – Pausing for a chat at the new Canyon Gallery during the Business After Hours event on Tuesday were, from left, Katie Smits, gallery owner Amy Harmsen, Lu Anne Tyrrell, and Ken Brengle, CEO of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism. (Photo by Beverly Corbell)
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MONTROSE – Montrose natives Amy and Wil Harmsen had researched opening a photography gallery for years, and despite the bad economy, they decided that the time was right to move forward.

The Canyon Gallery, which opened in May, is modeled after one in Georgetown, Colo., owned by one of their friends, Gary Haines, said Amy.

“He’s the one who encouraged us to open this, and a lot of his work is here,” she said.

The work of five other photographers is on display, including Wil Harmsen, Andy Cook of Colorado Springs, Keith Wright of Texas, Jack Cooley of Loveland, Colo., and Vince Farnsworth of Montana.

Many of the photographs feature wildlife and outdoor scenes, which is Wil’s specialty.

When asked why they opened a gallery in the midst of a recession, Amy was upbeat.

“If you get in while it’s low, the only way to go is up, and the price was right for the buildings,” she said.

The Harmsens also bought the building next door, separated but under the same roof as their gallery at the southeast corner of Main Street and Townsend Avenue. They’ve rented out the store, which is being remodeled and will soon reopen as a gift shop.

Both storefronts are a much-needed addition to Montrose’s Main Street, where others have closed their doors.

The location is highly desirable, Amy said, despite the lack of parking except on Main Street.

“There’s no parking, but this is the most visible corner in town and gets the tourists’ attention,” she said. “And at Main in Motion, we get lots of great exposure.”

The last business at the gallery’s site was Miz Kitty’s Emporium, a gift and novelty shop, where customers squeezed through narrow aisles packed with merchandise on three levels.

The three levels of the gallery are now open spaces where photographs, some that look like fine- oil paintings, line the walls, illuminated by the new track lighting. The gallery has a 44-inch digital printer for printing out large versions of customers’ photos, and will have a scanner soon.

The gallery also sells a small selection of jewelry, with beadwork by Patrick Malone, and other original work including a glass case devoted entirely to rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings of rare larimar stones set in silver.

Larimar is the "rarest stone in the world," Amy said, and is only found in one square kilometer in the Dominican Republic. It is the mineral pectolite, and the pale blue variety known as larimar is also known as Stefilia’s Stone, with colors that range from white to deep blue.

The Canyon Gallery is the only place in Montrose that sells larimar jewelry, Amy said, and she found a larimar wholesale distributor in Georgetown near Haines' gallery. She also studied other businesses.

“I looked at what works in other towns and will see if it works here,” she said.

As with most new businesses, the Harmsens don’t expect to make money right away.

“It’s been wonderful so far, but we expect to take a year or two to get it on its feet,” Amy said. “That’s why my husband works his day job.”

Wil’s day job is as a mortgage banker at Wells Fargo, where Amy also worked until the birth of their daughter, Addison, a year ago. Now Amy works at the gallery on Tuesday through Thursday, while her best friend Qualene Coddington works Mondays and Fridays.

“We’ve been friends since junior high, and she’s my trusted confidante,” Amy said.

The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and later on Thursdays during Main in Motion.

Amy said opening the gallery is her husband’s dream come true, and they believe they made the right move at the right time.

“We plan to be here for the long term,” she said.

Wil said the couple feels they’re on solid footing, despite the economy.

“As Warren Buffet says, when people are getting in, he gets out. When they’re getting out, he gets in,” he said.
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