What Reflections Gallery did first has served it best during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer Harrison, the gallery's studio director and granddaughter of its founders, says Reflections started in 1986 as a custom framing and frame repair business. While it now boasts a bona fide gallery featuring works of local artists and her own stained-glass studio, Harrison says its "faithful framing clients" have seen it through the pandemic.
"A few new ones, too," she says. "People stayed home and found things in closets and under beds, things they'd put off getting framed for years. We've had a lot of stained-glass commissions and restorations, as well."
Harrison says the gallery's foot traffic had picked up dramatically since its March 2019 move from Lee Highway to its current location on Chattanooga's Southside. Business dropped early in the pandemic, rallied after the vaccine rollout, but slumped again with the rise of the delta variant, Harrison says.
"There aren't tourists like before. We're not getting people in off the street like we used to," she says, adding that, as of mid-August, business at Reflections was off by perhaps 40% compared to its pre-pandemic level.
Harrison says she started working at Reflections when she was 15. Her grandparents, Jan and Patricia Rushing, owned the business and worked alongside her mother, Tami Jacoby, Harrison says.
"My grandparents took care of the business aspect, while my mom dealt with clients and did the framing," Harrison recalls. "They made a good team, and I spent all my after-school time with them. I loved being surrounded by the art. I'd play in the back room while they were doing custom framing.
"Then," she says, "I turned my play into productivity."
Harrison says she decided early on that she would try to carve out a career in art. The best part, she adds, was that she didn't have to leave Chattanooga to start down that road.
"I knew I loved it, and I was already in a perfectly central place, able to do many different kinds of things," she says.
Harrison says she settled on stained glass, learning from local artisan Daisy Pratt, for whom she apprenticed before opening her own studio at Reflections about a decade ago.
About four years ago, Harrison says, the time came for her to take over her mom's role in helping run the business.
"She'd cut back gradually," Harrison says. "It was a gradual handover and I had the help of my grandfather, who's been at the gallery almost every single day of my entire life."
Harrison says Jan Rushing played – and continues to play – a vital role in the business he and his wife launched.
"I never took to numbers and the business side as naturally as I did the artistic side," she says. "I really had to work on that. Thank goodness for our bookkeeping and back-office staff.
* Address: 1635 Rossville Ave.
* Online: reflectionsgallerytn.com
* Launched: 1986
"My grandfather is the cornerstone for the practical end. He's not artistically inclined in the slightest. He helps us see past the vision, to the ability to accomplish the vision," she says.
In 2019, Reflections Gallery left its Lee Highway home of nearly 30 years. The gallery moved to the Southside, where Harrison says things were going very well before the pandemic.
"In our first year [on the Southside], we saw all the things we were hoping to gain by moving – a wonderful community, full of artists and families excited to have us. People out in groups, walking around.
"Now we're feeling the crunch again. It's been a little bit rough, but if we get to a point where it's not so dangerous, we'll have a chance to recover – hopefully sooner than later," Harrison says.