Friday night will be the second time in a year that Denton business owner Warren Hooper has relocated his art gallery and flower shop.
The florist-turned-art dealer said he knew another move was in the cards as soon as his shop relocated from the 500 block of West Hickory Street to Cedar Street.
“It was just too small, in every respect,” Hooper said, thinking about the snug Cedar Street shop. “It was 700 square feet. It was a shoe box. For a flower shop and a gallery, it just wasn’t enough space. It was never meant to be long term.”
Hooper had to move his historic Denton business, Linwood-Alford Florist and Oxide Gallery, when the building owner sold it. Verus Real Estate bought the building and leased part of it to Smiling Moose Deli, which opened recently — one of the latest in downtown Denton’s business and cultural revival.
Hooper said he wanted to stay in the footprint of downtown Denton, and that he spent much of his spare time driving around the streets off the downtown Square.
“I was just looking for anything,” he said. “Ideally, I’d be closer, but when I saw that this space was going to be open, I moved on it. With the space we were in, I was worried that we might be losing some of our artists. A lot of artists were saying that they were going to sit out the shows because they knew we didn’t have enough room.”
Hooper started the gallery from the floral shop in 2008. As an art lover, he saw a vacuum in Denton’s visual arts scene. With local university galleries claimed by professional, faculty and student artists and with the Center for the Visual Arts programming two galleries with mostly professional art, Denton was short on space for emerging and amateur artists who are good enough to get into regional juried exhibitions.
Linwood-Alford Florist was using about 1,200 square feet of the flower shop as storage. Hooper wanted to make the space profitable. Oxide Gallery was born, and its mission was to exhibit and sell work by artists in North Texas.
A jury panel assembled to select work for monthly exhibits, and the business eventually began organizing a revolving exhibit at Banter Bistro, a downtown cafe and bar.
Oxide’s new home is at 115 Eagle Drive, where Peter Collora Pianos used to be. Collora Pianos is moving its inventory to its Dallas store, leaving plenty of space for “the beast,” the large refrigerator where Hooper’s fresh flowers are kept.
Along with the new space is a new business structure, Hooper said.
“We did tweak the name,” he said. “I wanted this to be more of a traditional flower shop, with flowers and plants that I design, and then most of the space belonging to the art.”
The business is now called Oxide Fine Art and Floral Gallery. The gallery will expand into the remainder of the space once all of Collora’s pianos have been moved.
Hooper grew up in the floral shop but wasn’t sure if the gallery would succeed. Any doubts he had about managing a gallery were put to rest on Oxide’s opening night, however.
“The place was packed. I was walking like this to get around,” he recalled, angling his body to the side. “People were literally taking the art off of the walls because they didn’t know what to do. They wanted to buy it, and didn’t want someone else to get the pieces they wanted.”
From that night, artists came by the dozens on submission days, and the jury had more art than it could fit in the gallery. They selected paintings, drawings, photography, mixed media and sculpture. And each month on gallery night, the crowds would return.
“I loved the party,” Hooper said. And he has a knack for serving tasty drinks and finding the right spot for fresh flower arrangements. He pulled in local food for the parties and people came in droves.
“If there were fewer than 150 people at one of the parties, I considered it a failure and wrote the whole thing off. The artists and my friends who own businesses would laugh at me,” he said.
Early on, Oxide established a partnership with Johnny Carino’s, bring art into the private dining room and hosting dinners catered by the restaurant.
The new location shows the jury’s taste for everything from atmospheric watercolor paintings to cheeky sculptures.
Since Oxide’s opening in 2008, what started out as a Denton gallery has become more regional, with artists coming from Dallas and Flower Mound.
“I sell art,” Hooper said. “That’s not the same thing as making money by selling art. But this is my hobby. I love doing this. The fact that I can come here to my business, which is selling flowers, and do what I love to do at the same place is really kind of amazing.
“I was complaining about it a while ago to one of my friends, and they were like, ‘Warren, the gallery pays for itself?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Hooper said. “And he asked, ‘You’re able to enjoy doing something you really love?’ and I go, ‘Mmm hmm.’ ‘And you’re able to make a living and do what you love?’
“They were right. I can make a lot of work for myself. But I love this. I love interacting with the artists. I love being able to provide a place where local artists can bring their work. Do I get a commission on it? Yes. And the artists get paid for their work. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
OXIDE FINE ART AND FLORAL GALLERY
What: Gallery Night, grand reopening and fifth anniversary party
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: 115 Eagle Drive
Details: Admission is free. For more information, call 940-483-8900.
On the Web: http://oxidegallery.com, http://oxidefloral.com