Local business expands to two locations

In ArtnDesign, Journalism on October 20, 2010 at 4:43 am

At a time when the recession was blighting the economic aspirations of many, artist and entrepreneur Roberto Evans didn’t seem to notice.

Bearded yet baby-faced, the 27-year-old Gainesville native decided to channel his creativity full-time in September 2008 with Berto’s, a dorm room-sized niche in the Sun Center that housed his screen-printed T-shirts, mixed-media art pieces and other made gifts.

Nearly two years later, Berto’s has evolved into two distinct downtown spaces: The Exchange and the newly opened Gifthorse, located at 101 N. Main St.

As Evans started carrying more retail items earlier this year, it became harder to convert The Exchange into a venue for artists and musicians. Gifthorse opened for business August 27 to solve the space issue Evans was facing. It houses all merchandise that was formerly at The Exchange and features a second-story art gallery. The Exchange is now solely an art school and exhibition space.

With the country still shaken from the longest recession on record, it may be hard to believe that a business would consider expansion, especially a company so vested in the arts. But one of the reasons Evans has managed to survive as a small business is that he doesn’t consider he runs one.

“Honestly, I never thought of doing my own business,” Evans said. “I still don’t think of it as a business. If I hear that word, it kind of freaks me out. It’s like, ‘No, this is what I want to do.’”

Evans cites that fact that he hasn’t felt the need to remove himself from the day-to-day operations by hiring as part of his success: He is the only employee.

Evans also remains connected to the local pulse in Gainesville. When business slowed during the summer months, he focused on music shows, art shows and even dance parties to cater to people’s interests and still pay the rent.

“Sometimes you just have to flex a little bit,” Evans said. “And if you don’t do that, you’ll break.”

Evans aims for the “feel-good factor,” where someone is genuinely excited about what he has to offer.

“I like that feeling,” Evans said. “And I like being part of the Gainesville community.”

The grand opening for Gifthorse will be Saturday, Nov. 6, at 101 N. Main St. and will feature artist Sebastian Castro in the art gallery.

Story in The Gainesville Sun


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