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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, March 31, 2023


The opening of a new shop on Main Street doesn't usually attract great attention, but tourism officials and merchants are watching closely to see how the new Jonna White Gallery fares.
If it does well and so far it's doing fine it will be a sign that Main Street can again attract and cater to upscale visitors.
Owner and artist Jonna White opened the gallery her second downtown Jan. 1. After six weeks, the Main Street gallery has done three times as much business as her 2-year-old waterfront store.
Joe Aubain, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn't surprised at White's success.
"The chamber has, for a long time, advocated for diversity in the Main Street merchandising, "Aubain said. "I think it's great that she's doing so well."
Aubain said the chamber believes that the greater the variety of merchandise, the more attractive the destination is as a shopping mecca.
White opened the new gallery in 2,300 square feet that was part of the old Sparky's space next to Royal Dane Mall Hers is the only art gallery directly on Main Street.
White, of course, is no stranger to St. Thomas. She opened her first gallery on the island 22 years ago and has been in several locations since then. She moved to the waterfront location two years ago from Bakery Square on Back Street.
"That was the first time I ever sold one thing to a cruise ship passenger," White said. Before that virtually all of her off-island customers came from the hotels.
"I have people who have been buying from me for 23 years," she said. "Now their children buy from me."
White said she worried initially that cruise ship passengers Main Street's mainstay would not pay the price for her artwork. Cruise ship passengers spend less here, on average, than overnight visitors, which is one reason why shops with lower-cost merchandise such as T-shirts have proliferated downtown.
"With an average $2,000 price tag, my work is not inexpensive," she said. But the cruise passengers are buying it.
The only other art gallery on the street that has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles for the amount of money that changes hands every day is the Camille Pissarro Gallery, owned by Patricia Lee. It is on the second floor on the Back Street side of the Pissarro Building farther west on Main Street.
Lee sells the work of a variety of artists. White sells only her own limited edition prints done in a centuries-old medium known as intaglio, an art form that uses etched metal plates and several colors of ink.
White said the move to Main Street was a risk, "but I believe in St. Thomas."
"I'd better, " she quipped. "Now I have two leases."

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