State College’s Douglas Albert Gallery To Close After Losing Lease
After more than four decades in business, Douglas Albert Gallery will close its art shop in downtown State College this spring.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be here forever, but I thought I’d leave on my terms, not on someone throwing me out like this,” Albert said.
Attempts to reach the building’s owners for comment have been unsuccessful.
According to Albert, his rental rate is “fair” but earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, when his shop had to temporarily close and he lost business, he was unable to pay the full amount each month. He said he was then put on a month-to-month lease, instead of the annual lease he previously had, and resumed paying the full amount when he fully reopened. He added that he reached an agreement with the building owners to pay a negotiated amount for the rent in arrears.
In November, Albert said, he received a letter notifying him that his lease would not be renewed and he would have to be out in February. He was later granted a three-month lease to stay in the shop through April but says that otherwise his proposals to negotiate a lease through at least the end of the year have been rejected.
Albert said the only reason he has been given for not renewing his lease has been that his shop doesn’t fit into the business plans for the building.
Now he’s looking for a new location to sell fine art and collectibles, but he said it’s difficult to find a place that meets his needs and wouldn’t require a costly buildout. The gallery is currently holding a sale to liquidate some of its stock.
“It’s going to cost me a lot of money just to get out of here,” Albert said. “I want to stay in business and I want to still be a part of the fabric of the community.”
One potential location Albert identified is the former Paul & Tony’s Stereo on South Atherton Street, though nothing has been signed and he’s still looking for other possible spots. His other options, he said, would be to move to an online business or close the gallery business altogether.
“I’m not crazy about what’s going on downtown and I see a shift in demographics. I’m smart enough to know the writing’s on the wall for small businesses downtown unless you’re a chain,” he said. “But I like being here. I’d prefer to end my art career out of this location and not have to invest in another location and reinvent myself.”
Albert said he will miss the walk-in business and returning visitors, as well as the atmosphere along the walkway with neighboring businesses Harper’s and The Tavern.
“I love what the Tavern did. They did an unbelievable job [with remodeling]. It’s a first-class place,” he said. “I thought there was a nice symbiotic relationship between me and Harper’s. We’re three quality places and this town is short on quality places. It’s a nice environment here and it looked like it was getting better with what The Tavern did.”
Albert opened the gallery in 1981, a decade after he opened his first business, Uncle Eli’s Artist Marketplace, which continues to operate at 129 E. Beaver Ave. and has a different landlord.
The gallery’s closure, Albert said, is “going to be another nail in the coffin of downtown State College,” as mom-and-pop shops struggle to meet the costs of doing business and compete with online retailers and chain stores.
“They don’t think we can compete, and I think we do compete,” he said. “I cut my margins a lot to be able to compete with the online sellers for art supplies because they have to match those prices. But I think the cost of doing business with insurance…I’ve had to give raises to all my employees and it costs me more some days to keep my doors open than I’m bringing in. The cost of doing business, if you’re a national chain you can absorb all that.
“When I started business in 1970, State College was a beautiful town. There wasn’t the Internet, obviously. It was all mom-and-pop stores, and now, they’re literally all gone except for a handful of us.”
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