MY JOURNEY TO OWNING SMART GALLERY – By Shelley Frieze, Gallery Owner
As I child I’d always dreamed of becoming a hairdresser, so at the age of 16, I was so proud of myself when I was accepted onto Vidal Sassoon’s YTS scheme, beating over 100 other school leavers & only being one of 20 to start the 3-year apprenticeship. Little did I know I couldn’t cut a straight line & after a year working there, they told me they couldn’t keep me on anymore as I just didn’t have it in me to become a hairdresser.
What was I going to do now??? The only thing I could do at 17 was to go to college & do a secretarial & business course, which I passed, however, I think I spent more time listening to Wham in audio typing than actually doing what I should have been.
Before settling down to work at 18 I decided I wanted to go travelling, this would give me lots of independence & life skills whilst most of my friends were at University, however, my parents made me work for 1 year to save some money first, so I worked for an insurance company as a clerk for exactly 1 year
My time travelling Europe was the best thing I did, earning money along the way & meeting some amazing people, so when I returned to Leeds I quickly realised that working with people & in a sales focused & business-driven environment was just what I would do.
I fell into Recruitment & worked my way up the ladder & spent 8 years of my 15 years in the industry working in London, in the meantime, my parents owned a framing business, they loved looking after independent & upcoming artists completing their artwork with a frame to complement their finished product.
In the year 2000 my parents decided to take the plunge & opened Smart Gallery as a concession in Redbrick Mill, Batley working with some fantastic, creative & experienced artists, and then a year later they opened their 2nd Smart Gallery based in Christopher Pratts – At this point, the business was growing, so after quite a few family meetings I joined them in 2002. I’d suddenly felt right at home – selling a beautiful product, original art & limited art at affordable prices, which after selling a service for so long was the best feeling. Arranging exhibitions & events with artists and marketing products that were not on the high street, or online and very exclusive.
So, in 2009 when my parents retired, taking over the business was a no brainer. It’s not been easy at times, and I’ve made mistakes along the way, but one thing that makes me get up every day & still loves going to work are the clients I look after, the wonderful artists that are so passionate about what they do, the pleasure I give them when I sell their work. Still, the business evolves & the world of art has changed dramatically, but I’m constantly sourcing & thinking outside the box so I can keep moving forward in this fast-moving climate
As a single mum of 51 with a 9-year-old I finally decided to open a smaller shopfront gallery in Chapel Allerton, North Leeds in March of 2019, I now feel that home is where the ART is………. As the owner of Smart Gallery I can make up the rules as I go along, I am grateful to every client who comes through the door and buys from me, no matter how big or small – I make buying art as easy as possible, letting clients try it at home for free with no obligation, or paying it off over months to make it more affordable. The framer who worked with my parents from day 1 is still my framer, so he understands exactly what makes a picture complete by offering a top framing service & I travel the country sourcing the best artwork & giftware to compliment the Gallery
The success of Smart Gallery is having the right stock, but I also believe it’s buying from me, the owner. I work full time with the support of Gemma, my right-hand person who does all my marketing. Buying from an independent business has one major advantage, as far as I’m concerned, you get the best, personal service a client would want – and if you don’t believe me, why not pay us a visit, you won’t be disappointed.
Smart Gallery – The place for appreciating art