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MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2007
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Kathy Gray and Kristin Burnett move a table into the Willis Gray Gallery & Home and Albany Framing on Second Avenue Southeast on Wednesday. The gallery, along with their new downstairs neighbor, The Loft, plan to hold a joint grand opening party March 8, though the businesses are now open.
Daily photos by John Godbey
Kathy Gray and Kristin Burnett move a table into the Willis Gray Gallery & Home and Albany Framing on Second Avenue Southeast on Wednesday. The gallery, along with their new downstairs neighbor, The Loft, plan to hold a joint grand opening party March 8, though the businesses are now open.

Moving Forward
Art Gallery Revamps & Reopens After Fire Eclectic Shop Relocates To Second Avenue

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

Owners and employees of Willis Gray Gallery & Home and Albany Framing moved paintings, furniture and flower arrangements into the gallery’s original location on Second Avenue in downtown Decatur last week. The building was damaged by a fire in September 2006 that destroyed the building next to it.

The newly colorful storefront is a contrast to the boarded windows and Dumpster temporarily in front of the gallery and framing shop soon after the fire.

The recent return of the businesses to 211 Second Ave., S.E., along with the addition of The Loft salon and eclectic gift shop underneath it, is breathing life back into a fire-scarred downtown block that sat dark for months while owners Glenna and Ralph Jones repaired and renovated it.

Crews still are working on the gutted building next door that housed The Brick deli, La Bella clothing store and Lighting Impressions.

‘A whole new audience’

Gallery co-owner Scott Willis said he and his staff are excited about being back in their renovated space and about the addition of The Loft downstairs.

“It seems like maybe it’s a turnover for Second Avenue,” he said. “I think all the activity is going to generate a whole new audience down here.”

Co-owner Kathy Gray-Clay echoed his thoughts.

The Loft’s interior entrance at its new location on Second Avenue. The allure of heavier foot traffic helped draw the eclectic shop from its previous location on Bank Street.
The Loft’s interior entrance at its new location on Second Avenue. The allure of heavier foot traffic helped draw the eclectic shop from its previous location on Bank Street.
“I would never have chosen to go through this to reap the benefits,” she said. “But maybe this is the shot in the arm Decatur needed.”

The gallery looks even better than it did before, though it still resembles its old self, Willis said. Workers knocked down walls to create more open space, laid new wood floors and installed improved lighting.

They new people will check out the gallery, too, now that they are back on pedestrian-heavy Second Avenue after their temporary relocation to Johnston Street, Willis said.

“We couldn’t get anybody in over there,” he said. The lack of a display window as well as the distance from other shops hurt them, though they were grateful for a place to relocate nearby, he said.

The allure of heavier foot traffic on Second Avenue also helped draw The Loft to its new location, co-owner Joe Johnson said.

The salon’s former location on Bank Street was a couple of blocks away from other shops, so pedestrian walk-ins were minimal, he said.

Work in progress

Glenna Jones, who has made it her mission to revitalize Decatur’s downtown, said she is happy to have the burden of fixing the 211 building off her shoulders.

“We’re real proud of it,” she said. “They are such quality tenants. They are very upscale, good looking.”

However, the three-story building next door that burned is still a work in progress.

“It’s just a gutted building right now,” she said. “We’re just now getting the roof back on.”

Right now she’s not sure what will go in the empty spaces once the building is ready for new tenants, though she thinks it’s an “excellent” place for a restaurant and has talked to a few restaurants owners about the space.

She also may add some loft apartments to the block, she said.

Red Jasper Spa

In March, Red Jasper Spa — which is currently located on Johnston Street — will reopen in the next block of Second Avenue, next door to Goody 2 Shoes in the former Surprises Galore building.

The Brick will most likely reopen in its new location on Moulton Street that same month.

The downstairs space that used to house Vintij Salon received new floors, ceiling tiles and paint, giving The Loft owners freedom to choose the look they wanted for their new area.

The Loft’s move was perfect timing, said Florence Caudle, a partner at The Loft.

“It’s almost like it was meant to be,” she said.

Co-owner David Caudle owned a salon called Salon Carmella in the same space about 12 years ago and loved it, she said.

With the lease nearly up at their Bank Street location and a need for more space, they decided to move.

“Our business over there (on Bank Street) was starting to really, really grow,” Johnson said. “It was really a necessity to get a larger space.”

The new Loft

Brooke McMahan greets clients at The Loft’s new location on Second Avenue Southeast. “We really wanted to create a space that was warm, friendly and inviting,” co-owner Joe Johnson said. “We set out to provide a similar experience (to big cities) but at a Decatur budget.”
Brooke McMahan greets clients at The Loft’s new location on Second Avenue Southeast. “We really wanted to create a space that was warm, friendly and inviting,” co-owner Joe Johnson said. “We set out to provide a similar experience (to big cities) but at a Decatur budget.”
The new location, which includes wood flooring, colorful walls, beautiful wall hangings and fresh flower arrangements, is at least twice as big as the old space.

“We really wanted to create a space that was warm, friendly and inviting,” Johnson said. “We set out to provide a similar experience (to big cities) but at a Decatur budget.”

To meet demand, the salon added a manicurist/pedicurist and a second hair stylist.

The Loft will soon start offering clothing along with retail items it already sells such as purses, candles, jewelry and accessories, Johnson said.

The clothing selection will be limited to tops and dresses and will debut in March.

Grand opening

Willis Gray Gallery & Home, Albany Framing and The Loft plan to partner for a grand opening party to showcase their new spaces.

Details are still in the works, but Willis hopes to have live music for the March 8 event.

Johnson said coming together for a grand opening just makes sense because the two businesses are similar.

“We both celebrate the more artistic side of everything,” he said. “Also, it creates a little more buzz, a little more hype.”

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