By Paula Detwiller Special to the Pineapple
She paints tawny beach scenes, vibrant tropical flora, serene pastel cottages and dazzling underwater reefs. Her eye for color is exquisite. So it’s no surprise that visitors to Lois Brezinski’s new gallery and gift shop in downtown Delray Beach smile when they walk in. “People say this is such a happy store, with such a positive vibe,” Brezinski said. “It’s because I really love what I’m doing now. I love painting and I love making people happy.” The store, Lois Brezinski Artworks, opened on November 1, 2012, in the historic Colony Hotel building on East Atlantic Avenue. Two months earlier, Brezinski had closed her gallery on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach after a valiant 18-month run. “I had unbelievable support from West Palm Beach and the Clematis Street business community, and I’m thankful and grateful for that,” Brezinski said. “But there just wasn’t enough downtown activity, despite my advertising and marketing efforts.”
As the saying goes, one door closes and another opens. Brezinski has a strong client base in Delray Beach, having lived here since 1998 and establishing herself by painting the local scenery, including historic homes and landmarks. Her “Historic Homes of Delray Beach” calendar was a best seller in 2005 and 2007, and locals still treasure her Delray Affair publicity posters (2006 – 2008). Lois Brezinski Artworks sells original watercolor paintings, giclee prints, and a variety of gift items bearing her signature artwork: note cards, coasters, ceramic tiles, lacquer boxes, mouse pads, and more. She recently began selling hand-painting sisal rugs and glassware as well. Patrons from around the world are purchasing Brezinski’s paintings and images of Delray Beach as souvenirs. “I’ve met customers from Argentina, Israel, the Ukraine… and I just had a couple from New York who were heading to their second home in Tuscany,” she said. “They bought gifts to take to their business associates. So all these people in Italy are now getting something that says Delray Beach on it!” Inspired by the Caribbean Brezinski moved to Delray Beach from Grand Cayman Island, where she had lived for 10 years. Prior to that, she’d had a successful but stress-inducing career as a textile artist in New York City. Grand Cayman proved to be sheer bliss for this New Jersey native.
“When I moved to the Caribbean, I was absolutely amazed by the palm trees and everything I saw. The colors of the water just drove me crazy, they were so beautiful—the sapphire blues and the aquas. I fell in love and started to paint.” She turned her passion into a business empire. Today, several galleries in Grand Cayman Island carry Brezinski’s work, and her business, Cayman Colors, continues to sell reproductions of her art to more than 20 major gift shops and hotels. Prints of her watercolor paintings can be seen everywhere from U.S. embassies in the Caribbean to Marriott Hotels and Home Goods stores in South Florida.
A Little Help from the CRA Shortly after deciding to relocate her West Palm Beach shop to Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, Brezinski heard about the Business Development Assistance Program offered by the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and applied. The program helps new and start-up businesses in the CRA District by partially subsidizing their rent during the critical first year of operation. “Lois was eligible for the grant under what’s called the Artist Exception,” explained CRA Marketing and Grants Manager Elizabeth Burrows. “To qualify for rental assistance, most businesses will need to have at least two full-time equivalent employees. But art galleries and studios that are owned and operated by the primary artist don’t have to have additional employees.” Brezinski’s gallery has created more jobs than the grant program requires. While she often works in the shop, she has two part-time employees that cover for her when she is busy painting in her off-site studio. If approved for the Business Development Assistance Program, Brezinski stands to receive a total subsidy of $6,000, paid in twelve $500 monthly installments. “To receive this type of assistance from the CRA helps to keep the arts alive, and validates what I’m doing,” Brezinski said. “It’s good for the city, it’s good for me, and it’s good for the people who visit,” she said. For more information, visit www.loisbrezinskiartworks.com. Paula Detwiller writes professionally for the CRA and other clients. Her website/blog can be found at www.pdwrites.com.