Ann Cross’s inspiration for opening The Uncommon Art Shop in September came years ago through an epiphany at an art gallery. While traveling with her husband, Joe, she discovered a colorful lithograph of a man holding a wine glass and a woman holding a small bird.
“It seemed to speak to me – I felt as if I was glowing,” she said. “I bought it and started buying other whimsical artwork. I’ve since given that picture to one of my children, but I’ll always remember the joy it made me feel.”
Running an art store wasn’t the career she had pictured for herself. As a teenager from Greenwood, Miss., she thought her love of apparel would lead her to open a clothing store.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that life can be hard. I ultimately wanted to open a shop that people could walk into and just feel happy,” she said. “One day I was talking to my dad (Robert Wingate)and he said, “˜It’s your time. I’ve heard you talk about this, and I want to see your dream come true before I pass.’ He gave me a check to open the store. That has made this a hundred thousand times more special.”
Such family ties are at the heart of The Uncommon Art Shop. Robert, 90, comes in almost daily, as does his 4-year-old great-grandson, Jackson Cross, who shares his play area with youngsters while their parents browse. Ann’s daughter, Brittany Cross Miles, designed the stylish desk and counters, and son John runs the store’s business side. The family’s other son, Jared, works for their father at Cross Chrysler Jeep.
And Brutus, John’s 5-month-old French bulldog, greets customers with a Gallic grin.
Ann makes it a point to meet the artists whose creations she sells. Local artist Lauren Mouser, for example, paints portraits from digital photos; her depiction of members of Ann’s family hangs in the shop as a sample of her skill.
The Uncommon Art Shop presents wearable art as well, from Brazilian artist Walleska’s kimono made of soda pop-tops to rubber cowboy boots (with matching umbrellas) from Texas that keep feet dry in style. Wooden purses by Timmy Woods of Beverly Hills are among the store’s most eye-catching – and expensive- items: The crystal-studded Eiffel Tower model, which retails for four figures, is a replica of one carried in the 2008 “Sex and the City” movie. However, Ann also offers items that put “art within reach” of everyone.
“When I was young and went into galleries while Joe was traveling, I felt that I didn’t belong because everything was so expensive. I don’t want anyone to feel that way here, so we have artist-designed items under $10,” she said. “Our artists are very upbeat people. It shines through their work. We’ve been open only three months, but I’ve already gotten to know people I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”
The Uncommon Art Shop (10618 Meeting St. in Norton Commons) is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. It will be closed Jan.1-4 and reopen on Jan. 5 with hors d’oeuvres and new art. For information, visit www.theuncommonartshop.com or call (502) 426-0611.
photos by MARY ALAN WOODWARD | contributing photographer
Category: Business Profile