The Benefits of Loyalty

The Benefits of Loyalty

Pismo Chihuly Exhibition

Pismo’s 2011 Dale Chihuly exhibition at its Denver location. Photo: Wendy Silverman

Pismo Fine Art Glass
2770 E. Second Ave.
Denver, CO 80206
Other locations in Vail and Aspen
(303) 333-2879

 

“It’s important to us to offer a friendly, inviting environment where anyone – collector or browser – can come in and appreciate the immense and varied talents of our artists,” says Sandy Sardella, owner and director of Pismo Fine Art Glass, which presents work by world-renowned and emerging makers at its two-story, 6,800-square-foot flagship in Denver, with other locations in Aspen and Vail.

Though she has lived in Colorado since the late 1960s, Sardella doesn’t ski and cheerfully admits she hates cold weather. That’s why she named the gallery after her favorite California beach getaway: “I tell people Pismo is where I intend to be from someday.”

How did Pismo come to be?
I started in 1990, without knowing much about retail at all. I have an undergraduate degree in statistics and a master’s in taxation. I was a financial consultant, traveling a lot, and my husband had odd hours, and so I decided to look at other things. You know, it always sounds glamorous to have your own store, your own little gallery.

Did you have a clear idea of what to sell?
I wanted to do a glass gallery, but some of the local glass artists said the economy would not support a glass gallery in Denver. So I started with a mix of media, then began phasing out most everything else within two years. At the time I was fortunate to go to a seminar for collectors at the Pilchuck Glass School. I talked my way in; they knew I was a new gallery owner, not a collector, but they let me come. After that I really decided I wanted to be in glass. So I did a show, and got exceptional artists: Dale Chihuly, Dante Marioni, Rich Royal, Ben Moore, some of the main names in Northwest glass. That got me going, and I still represent all of those same people from that very first glass show.

Do the three galleries have different personalities?
I think so. A lot of it comes down to what the staff likes. In Denver we carry Lino Tagliapietra and Chihuly and [other big names], but we’re fun-loving, so we’ll also have humorous, whimsical work – whereas in Aspen they’re very straight about this art form and about appealing to the collectors, so they don’t branch out into the whimsical. In Vail, my director is from Slovakia, so she really likes European artists. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. The nice thing with having three galleries is if something doesn’t work in one, we can move it to another. It keeps things fresh.

How do you cultivate your clientele?
We carry a wide price range. We want to appeal to everyone, make art accessible. This year in Denver we started with a Chihuly show, then did a Lino show, and then a bead show. The bead work started at probably $12 and went up to several thousand [dollars]. So it’s not just about the high end. High quality? Most definitely. We’ve built a loyal client base through honesty, good customer service, and follow-up. We treat clients like members of our family, because without them we wouldn’t be here. They, in turn, treat us well, too. I had a client who was looking at work by one of our artists, then found a piece she liked at another gallery. She called to ask what to do. I told her if the piece was what she was looking for, she should by all means buy it. She did, but on her own negotiated a “finder’s fee” for Pismo. Customer loyalty is very rewarding. 

Joyce Lovelace is American Craft’s contributing editor.