This month’s entrepreneur feature shares the business story of William Morrison of Morrison Art Storage, which is based in Kent, CT. Morrison’s business is obviously the perfect feature for this month’s theme of “Art & Design,” but beyond that, the business of art storage is quite unique and interesting – and talk about a niche market!
I heard about Morrison Art Storage on Robin Hood Radio this morning. Is this a new business for you?
It’s really an extension of my contemporary art gallery business. I’ve had a gallery in Kent for 20 years. We started off in a small location off Main Street and then upsized into the beautiful space designed by James Preston of Rock Hill Associates for Back Country Outfitters (BCO). When BCO moved out we moved in and worked with the big space even though the retail design was not perfect for art. When we decided to relocate to a permanent home, I bought a parcel of land at 60 North Main Street to construct a new gallery and storage space. Construction of the art storage facility began first because a number of New York galleries approached me about their need to store inventory less expensively than in the city. It seemed like a good business idea. Besides art storage offers the possibility of steady, predictable revenues unlike the gallery and art dealing business.
Who are the clients for this specialized type of storage?
Our clients are private collectors, artists and their estates, art advisors, galleries, art and antique dealers, museums, architects and interior designers, and owners of any kind of valuable object from vintage fashion to silver. Some collectors just don’t have enough room at home for the art they have purchased, but want to keep it in a secure environment. Our storage facility could be a pit stop for art in travelling shows in between exhibition dates or before being shipped internationally. Dealers need a place to keep excess inventory that is safe and readily accessible. And the extra space is very useful to our own gallery so we can keep an artist’s work in inventory after an exhibition and have it readily available to show to buyers.
Will the storage business enhance your gallery business?
Absolutely, that is our hope. Some clients of Morrison gallery will want to store art here. Maybe they will even buy more because they will have a place to put it. And all the art storage clients will be exposed to the artists in our gallery shows.
What’s special about Morrison Art Storage?
This building was actually designed and built from the ground up for art storage. Purpose built, not retrofitted from a former factory or warehouse. It’s built like Fort Knox out of concrete and steel with fire rated walls and a custom designed state of the art built-in security system. The ceilings are 32’ tall. A tractor-trailer can drive into the building and unload huge paintings and very large, heavy sculptures, or use the loading docks. Plus it has private exhibit spaces where clients can display, and enjoy their art or invite their own clients for a private viewing. We have 22,000 square feet of storage space with another 10,000 feet at a secret location.
We also offer flexibility. Clients can store in an open space or have us construct their own storage unit to their specifications. There are three levels of climate control. Heated areas; a temperature controlled environment with heating and cooling; or a museum standard, full climate controlled with humidity maintained at 50% at all times. Cost depends on the square feet needed and the level of climate control required.
Besides the physical structure what is important to clients?
Confidentiality is super important. We do not reveal what is stored or who our clients are. Expertise in handling all kinds of valuable objects and the required equipment like forklifts and trucks is critical, as well as the sophistication to deal with collectors and dealers. Our specially designed inventory/tracking system is another important distinguishing feature. And the approximately 2,000-square-foot elegant exhibit space that is available to clients to display their stored work is very appealing and a real perk for large collectors and dealers. Plus it’s well ventilated and large enough for social distancing. Overall it’s the total value of what we offer including very competitive pricing and a convenient location close to New York and Boston.
Are you optimistic about the art business by spring of 2021?
Actually the art business locally is pretty good right now with new full-time residents putting down roots and furnishing their homes as permanent residences. Certainly all galleries took a hit during the pandemic – by some estimates gallery sales, especially small galleries, were down over 40%, but I am already starting to see a recovery. And we will start doing art fairs nationally when Covid restrictions lift. •
To learn more about Morrison Art Storage, they are located at 60 N Main St, Kent, CT. You can reach them by phone at (860) 927-4501, or online at www.morrisonasf.com.