Lenny Bazemore is just as much an artist as he is a businessman. Lenny has an immense knowledge of fine art, spatial aesthetics and the Chinese art of Qi [pronounced ‘chee’]. That same level of dedication to the arts has been duplicated in business as the owner of the Bazemore Gallery in Manayunk. In the interview below, Lenny discusses how his career in art began and how he came to own his own gallery. Read closely as there are many valuable points throughout the article. Enjoy.
CC: Can you please introduce yourself for those who don’t know?
LB: My name is Leonard Bazemore—everyone calls me Lenny. I’m the gallery director and designer here at the Bazemore Gallery.
CC: How did you get your start in business and how did that lead to a life in art?
LB: My business background is in real estate investing. After I migrated down to Center City from Plymouth Meeting in 2003, I met Tommy Dellapenna and Perry Milou, two fine artists who used to paint in Rittenhouse Square. When they started Galleria 1903 the following year, they asked me to come and sell art for them. To develop my taste in art I had to learn how to build a relationship with each piece. And then I became a collector once I began learning more and more. I eventually got to a point where I wanted to go back to school to study fine arts at Montgomery County Community College.
CC: So how did you go from working at Galleria 1903 to now owning the Bazemore Gallery?
LB: Well I have two artist studios in my home; one upstairs that lets in this beautiful Northern light and a basement studio but I was getting paint all over the floors and on the walls. I wanted to search for a gallery space outside of my home maybe in someone’s garage or extra room somewhere. At that point I was ready to show my work in galleries as well so I needed a space to work and show my art. But I had trouble finding something that matched my energy. I searched for maybe a year because I have to be somewhere in a beautiful setting, good energy, good qi.
And so one day I thought, with my background in real estate investing I might as well buy a building, for which the business model made sense. I needed a building with commercial space in it that I could do over, a blank canvas, so that I could come in with my own design. The building also has two apartments on top of the studio that I rent out. The rent that I receive pays the mortgage so now my studio space is essentially free. Now there’s no pressure to meet a “sales quota.” And this space is in a great location between Center City and The Main Line.
CC: So what goes into operating a successful Art Gallery?
LB: In order to run a successful gallery, first and foremost you have to put yourself in a favorable lease or ownership position with the building. Then building a quality mailing list and building relationships with the local community and art lovers throughout the city and outside of the city. Then of course, picking good art. If you build it, they will come, so to speak. So if you pick really good art that really attracts people, that’s something different, and you put that in a cool space, that in itself will make a gallery successful.
Now, selling art, that’s a completely different thing. You can build a very cool space and you can fill it with very good art but if you don’t build rapport with people you won’t sell art. You have to listen to people and let them talk to get a feel for if they’re in the market. If you don’t get a feel for it, then just ask. “Are you in the market for art? Are you a collector?” You have to ask for their business. I’ve been to several galleries where I’ll walk through and walk out. No one engaged me. And I’ve been in some galleries where they’ll show you the artwork and offer small talk but that’s it. I’ve found that by asking, “Is there anything you’d like to buy today?” sometimes works.
CC: Do you have any last words of advice for someone looking to go into business for themselves?
LB: If you’re looking to go into business for yourself, no matter what business it is, have a business plan. Make sure the business model works for you, your personality, and your dreams, goals and ambitions. No matter what, do the right thing, the right way until you get the right results. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from an organization or friends who have started businesses and have achieved some level of success. Don’t be afraid to ask other merchants in the vicinity of where you want to start your business. What are the demographics like? What’s your busiest day? Is there a lot of foot traffic? Sometimes you can manipulate the demographic with marketing. Before you put forth the effort and take the risk, do your due diligence. Know the market.
The Bazemore Gallery 4339 Main Street Philadelphia, PA 19127 Facebook: TheBazemoreGallery