The mom-and-pop treasure in the North Beach area of San Clemente will close its doors for good come the end of April, unless a buyer swoops in to keep the successful art center, shop and custom-framing services going. For 16 years Patti and Richard Herdell have built a community where professionals from as far as Holland come to teach workshops and stay at the Herdells’ home, and people can fulfill a lifetime’s desire to be creative by learning new techniques, infusing a whole new energy into their life.
Misconceptions that a small, family-owned shop is going to be so much more expensive than a big box are simply misinformation. Thanks to a group of art stores that consolidate their buying power, the Herdells’ extensive inventory for everything from oils and mixed media and spray paint is not offered at bloated prices. That includes the museum-quality, custom framing, as well.
But since their decision to retire, again—the couple originally retired and moved to San Clemente from Houston—the doors shut for a few days as their devoted staff prepared for the going-out-of-business sale. The morning the shop in the 1921 historic building reopened, a line of about 150 Southern California artists waited for the doors to open. Right now, everything except the framing services is 40 percent off and may go lower the closer to May Day we get.
“We are moving to San Diego and had originally planned to run the shop remotely,” says Patti, “with our wonderful staff managing the day-to-day operations; but after much thought have concluded that we need to actually retire, for real.”
All the fixtures are for sale as well as its inventory. I covet the massive wooden tables with shelves built-in where the framers help people with heirlooms and artists showing at the summer art shows in Laguna make their selections, but they are way too heavy and oversized for my abode. The easels and drawing horses from the studio may still be up for grabs.
I first discovered the shop when my cousin gifted me a rolled canvas he’d bought in Havana, Cuba. And I have been back many times for my outsider artist supplies or to get gifts for my friends. But all this time my choice to not frame the painting after the experts stretched it for me has caused little stabs of regret, because I could see some bare canvas along the edges of the tall, narrow painting when I walked by it every day.
Curious about the sale, I checked it out on the second day, and the place was packed with shoppers. A wonderful framer postponed his lunch to help me figure out what I wanted to do—since what I thought I wanted looked lame. When he saw the garish street scene with the bulky Buick, he was delighted; because a couple had been in the day before with a similar scene and big red car they’d brought back from the island.
I finally chose a candy-colored frame called grape taffy. Not only does the purple pull out the painting’s most subtle hue, but, as the framer pointed out, its swooping curved profile is echoed in the buildings’ arches and the vehicle’s big-hipped fenders. Can’t wait until it’s ready at the end of March, which is when the shop will stop taking orders, if not before if they get too jammed with orders.
I’m still holding out hope a buyer will come and save the day. “The shop is doing well and we are healthy; it is just time,” says Patti, speaking for herself and Richard.
“Running this store has been the opportunity of a lifetime for us,” Patti continues. “Getting to be in the company of so many kind, creative people has been a rare and wonderful gift. We are so grateful.”
Only two, two-day workshops remain in the art center that are not already sold out. So it’s not too late to get in on some of the action.
Lisa Black proofreads the dead-tree edition of the Weekly, and writes culture stories for her column Paint It Black.