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Purple Velvet

Posted On March 30, 2013

A tale of two sofas is the source of color and design for this art gallery.

By PAMELA GRAHAM

Maybe it’s the dozens of paintings that line the wall, a creative eye for detail, or the friendly warm welcome that sparks your interest as you walk into Off the Wall Art Gallery. Most likely though, it's the large purple sofas that first grab your attention, with good reason. These velvet sofas made their way to South Carolina from Los Angeles and owner Noelle Zandri had to have them, even though at the time she didn’t have an art gallery, much less know if they would fit into a space they might lease. As Noelle will tell you “they are a great source of conversation”. Her husband Marsino quickly adds “the sofas found a home and triggered the color of our sign and our logo”. So there the story begins, but the question remains how does an Italian couple from upstate New York land in Summerville, South Carolina?

It all began with a search for a warmer climate. The Zandris say it’s not uncommon for folks in upstate New York to vacation in Myrtle Beach, so on a trip to South Carolina, the Zandris made a side trip to Charleston, when a childhood friend suggested they drive the short distance to visit him in Summerville. Noelle says “it was love at first sight, the ‘ole timey small town with the historic square, where everyone welcomed us with open arms.”

In April of 2010, the Zandris sold everything, quit their corporate jobs and moved to Summerville. Leaving friends and family behind, they quickly bought a home and began decorating it. The house needed artwork and Noelle was desperately looking for “affordable oil paintings” without much success. “We searched everywhere and ended up states away, so one day we looked at each other and said let’s open up an art gallery...if we are looking for affordable oil paintings, so are a lot of other new homeowners!” she said. So the idea was set in motion and instead of looking for corporate jobs in South Carolina, the Zandris began looking for space to open an art gallery.

In October 2011 the shingle was hung, and their new art gallery opened in downtown Summerville right around the corner from the Chamber of Commerce. “Family and friends thought we were off our rockers for considering such a drastic venture in tough economic times. We decided to get into the game when everyone was getting out, we knew it was a gamble, but we felt strongly about this community.” said Marsino.

And then there was the dilemma of what to name their new art gallery. A friend and educator helped them by suggesting the play on words “off the wall” as in taking paintings off the wall and, as they say, the rest is history.

Now with more than 800 oil paintings to choose from, the Zandris are finding a niche market where you can appreciate art at an affordable price. With the exception of a few commissioned art pieces, there is nothing in the store that sells for more than 500 dollars. Along with the oil paintings there is a wide selection of jewelry from local designers, pottery, glass, clay and copper designs. Wood turning artist Fred Holsclaw is featured with a large display, including his birdhouses and pepper and salt mills. Photographers Kenny McKeithan and Jimmy Hartnett are award winning artists who are well known for their Carolina images. In all, more than 20 local artists have their artwork on display at Off the Wall Art Gallery.

The art gallery has also become a go to place for customized framing. Marsino takes great pride in finding the perfect frame for your artwork. With his eye for design, he makes all the frames himself, buying the molding from a local supplier. In fact, at the moment he’s on the hunt for old barn wood for a client. For Marsino, it’s about customer service, going the extra mile and he’s up for the challenge.

Owning your own business isn’t always easy, but the Zandris are happy and seeing success. “We had a good business plan and we get great support from the Chamber of Commerce.” he said.

Noelle is reminded of a comment from a recent customer who said they “walked in a stranger but left as a friend.”

A compliment the Zandris treasure as they hope more friends will find them along the way, and maybe take a moment to take in all the artwork while lounging on those must have purple velvet sofas. 843- 376-5776, offthewallartgallery.com

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