When the Gannon Art Center opened 50 years ago this week in the Brainerd location of the former Little Art Shop, there were more than three dozen retailers in the area selling art supplies and framing pictures.
Only a handful of such businesses are still building frames for art and pictures today, including major chains like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.
Eddie Gannon, the 64-year-old owner of the art gallery and picture framing business bearing his family name, has worked in the family-owned business since he was 14 years old and says he has never wanted to do anything else. Gannon said his passion and commitment to generations of artists and other customers across the country has sustained the business through three generations.
Creating the right frame to present art or pictures is often key to their display, Gannon said.
Gannon Art at 3250 Brainerd Road in Chattanooga will cost an anniversary party today from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with live music and refreshments open to the public.
"With our vision, we see a frame different ways," he said as he proudly displays his frames built for everything from water color paintings and photographs to posters and fabrics. "It's the most rewarding job you could ever have. We've done work from Carolina to California and from New York to Florida."
The Gannon Art Center, now the oldest picture and art framing business in Chattanooga, began as an outgrowth of the paintings of Eddie Gannon's mother, Dorothy S. Gannon, who was a prolific artist who helped start the In-Town Gallery in 1974 in the Read House Hotel.
She initially worked for the Little Art Shop on Frazier Avenue downtown to help frame her art and later moved to their second location at 3250 Brainerd Road just east of the Missionary Ridge tunnels. Her husband Wendell and son Eddie also worked with her at the shop and when the Littles downsized their business, they sold the Brainerd art store to the Gannons.
Cureton Gannon, the third generation family member in the business who works as social media coordinator when she is not visiting artists or painting herself in Spain, said the art gallery continues to cultivate the "you name it we frame it" philosophy by constantly changing and adapting to the custom framing needs of new and repeat customers.
Gannon Art Center still offers a range of services such as restoration, an array of printing for reproductions and a selection of art supplies. Over the years, however, the sale of art supplies has fallen as much of that specialized business has moved to online sales. But the framing business has continued to grow.
The initial 2,000-square-foot storefront doubled in size to add an art gallery for local artists to sell their paintings and other artwork that Gannon framed.
Eddie Gannon has also bought the century-old block of buildings where his business is located along with neighboring merchants offering stained glass art, dog grooming, yoga classes and an artist studio in leased storefronts. Across Brainerd Road, a number of restored storefronts and antique shops have opened to create a walkable art district, of sorts.
"It's far different than when we had three massage parlors in this area," Gannon recalled.
Like his parents Eddie Gannon said he strives to work with clients to figure out how best to frame and present the art and pictures brought to the Brainerd store.
"We ask a lot of questions and adapt to what best suits our clients," he said. "Throughout 2019 we have been looking back at where we started, relishing in all we have achieved, and eagerly anticipating what the future will bring."
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340.