● Published by J. Chambless
By John Chambless
There was good news in early November as the former owners of the Longwood Gallery in Kennett Square stepped aside and let an eager new team take over the business. And customers hardly noticed the transition.
In late October, Marjorie Kuhn and Sheila Washington were in the gallery with new owners Megan and David Umbs, and there were smiles all around. Looking back on how she and Washington kind of fell into the gallery business, Kuhn recalled their 2004 meeting with Mary Davies, who was operating the Longwood Gallery on Route 1 in a location that suffered from visibility problems. Set back from the road, the second-floor space was cozy but didn't get enough visitors.
“We only had 12 customers in December that year,” Kuhn said, laughing. “We were either going to be way in debt, or move.”
At that time, the highly visible space at 200 E. State St. in Kennett Square housed the Historic Kennett Square meeting room when Kuhn and Washington asked about taking it over. The deal was struck and the business opened in its new location on April 1, 2005. That day was the traditional Art Stroll evening, but before they had officially opened, Kuhn and Washington had their first customer, who knocked on the door to ask about framing.
A decade ago, the business climate in Kennett Square was smaller and sleepier, and Kuhn noted that it's become much more eclectic and funky in recent years. Along the way, Longwood Gallery has showcased more than 140 exhibitions and promoted regional artists such as Mary Ann Weselyk and Jack Giangulio, who are two longtime favorites of both Kuhn and Washington. While they both loved the artists and customers who have become friends, they said that the physical labor of creating frames and cutting mats and glass has become a bit much for them.
“We're ready to relax,” Kuhn said. “It'll be great having Saturdays free. And before Christmas, we'll actually be able to decorate the house rather than be here every day.”
In 2006, Longwood Gallery was a favorite stop for David Umbs and his daughter, Megan, both of whom loved art and were steady buyers. David smiled and said he owns 41 artworks purchased at the gallery, along with 40 pieces of pottery. Megan's home is packed with purchases from Longwood Gallery as well. Her father, who retired 25 years ago, lives in the carriage house on her property. It's on North Union Street, within walking distance of the gallery.
“We had been talking about selling the gallery for maybe six months or so,” Kuhn said. “Then we decided to tell David and Megan. And Megan said, 'Well, dad, we could buy the gallery.'”
Within a couple of days, a deal had been struck.
Megan is excited to take over the business, and she has been learning the fine points of framing pictures. She has extensive experience in non-profit management, and David was an institutional investment advisor and traveled all over the country before retiring at 45.
“I've been retired 25 years, and I'm getting bored now,” David said with a smile.
Megan said she and her father have already fit in with the business community in Kennett Square. “The townspeople here are so welcoming,” she said. “To be joining the actual business community is very exciting for us. But it's also a natural transition, because we know the town and we love the town. We'll still be doing framing, and my dad's really going to be the face of the business. We'll be keeping all the artists that are already here, because they're fabulous.”
A reception with the gallery's artists and customers was held to reassure everyone that the transition will be seamless.
“We trying to keep consistency,” Megan said. “We want our customers to feel as if we are simply an extension of what Marge and Sheila have started. We're going to keep their vision going, because the town loves this place.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email email@example.com.