After calling Rehoboth Beach home for the past 35 years, Creative Impressions Art Gallery will be closing its doors Sunday, April 28.
Large going-out-of-business signs have been in the windows of the corner commercial property in downtown Rehoboth for weeks now, and Scott Frohman, gallery owner, recently said customers continue to express their disappointment.
“Daily we’re getting people who say this is one of the funnest places to go to,” he said, sitting in the attic of the store. “Even if they’re just browsing, they enjoy seeing what the gallery has to offer.”
Frohman said he got his start selling art at temporary galleries set up in malls throughout the country. He can remember setting up his first such gallery in a Kmart parking lot after giving the store manager a couple of paintings for his wife.
Creative Impressions Art Gallery opened in 1984 in an ocean block location. Frohman said the business concept was simple, and it was all about instant gratification for the buyer. He would buy artwork and frame moldings in large volumes at discounted prices. He chose which frame worked best with which piece of art, did the framing, and then displayed the finished product for sale. He said this model allowed him to provide high-quality work at a fraction of the price found in big-city galleries.
“The idea was that a customer would pick up a piece of artwork and it would be ready to hang,” said Frohman.
Over the years, the gallery grew in size and moved to different locations in Rehoboth. Frohman estimates there are thousands of pieces of art in the store at any one time, and hundreds of pieces of art are sold every week.
For a long time, Creative Impressions wasn’t exclusively in Rehoboth. Frohman said the gallery was one of the original tenants in the outlets on Route 1; there was a gallery on Main Street in Historic Annapolis; there was a store in the Dover Mall for a short period, and there were also two locations in Ocean City, Md.
Frohman said the art gallery business took a significant hit in 2008, estimating that 70 percent of galleries like his have closed since then. People used to shop as a hobby, but then galleries had to begin competing with the artwork available at large box stores.
“The idea of hanging artwork from a HomeGoods or Marshalls in one of these beautiful homes is beyond comprehension,” he said.
Frohman said he always considered the Rehoboth location home, which is why it will be the last one to close. The outlet location closed in 2011, and the Annapolis store closed in 2014.
Frohman, now in his early 60s, said he’s closing because the property owner is looking for more money and for a long-term tenant. He said at his age, he’s not willing to sign a long-term lease, but he doesn’t begrudge the property owner for trying to maximize the property’s potential.
After 35 years of seeing business trends come and go, Frohman said he’s concerned retail stores in Rehoboth are being pushed out. Restaurants are doing OK, he said, but for retail stores it’s a precarious time.
Frohman said he’s enjoyed working with city officials over the years. He thanked the fire department for saving his business on one occasion. He thanked the police for notifying him when employees forgot to lock doors. He thanked the chamber of commerce for always being wonderful to work with.
In the end, Frohman said, he’s apprehensive about retirement, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever leave Rehoboth, and he’ll be relieved when it’s all over.
“Change is inevitable,” Frohman said. “In its heyday, working in Rehoboth and running this gallery was the best possible job anybody could want.”
Frohman said as the countdown to closing gets closer, there will be discounts on artwork. In addition to reduced pricing, he said he has some artwork that he’s giving away to local charities for free.
Creative Impressions Art Gallery is located at 200 Rehoboth Ave. The store will be open at 11 a.m. every day until it closes. For more information, call 302-227-7171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.