Touchstone Gallery is getting ready to close up shop in Scottsdale, says New Mexico-based gallery owner Joe Wilhelm. The gallery's three other locations — in Sedona, Santa Fe, and Taos — will stay open, Wilhelm says.
Located at 4168 North Marshall Way, the gallery specializes in jewelry, minerals, and fossils. Merchandise is already being moved to other locations, says Teresa Lewis, gallery manager for the Scottsdale location. Wilhelm says they’ll close on or around June 1.
Touchstone Gallery joins a growing list of galleries that have left the Old Town section of Scottsdale, once best-known for its weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk, held every Thursday night for more than 40 years.
“Landlords are filling spaces, but not with galleries,” Wilhelm says. When Touchstone Gallery opened in Old Town during the Spring of 2011, both its neighbors were galleries. Now, he says, there's a yoga studio and a landscape design firm.
Wilhelm’s decision comes after years of declining traffic. “The last year that felt good was 2013,” he says. “We’ve had fewer clients each year since 2014.” It didn’t help when Blue Rain closed its Scottsdale location, he says.
Other galleries that have left Old Town include Lisa Sette Gallery, now located in midtown Phoenix, and Bentley Gallery, now located in the Phoenix warehouse district. Sette’s former space is being turned into a wine bar, Wilhelm says.
But there's some movement in the other direction as well. Tilt Gallery relocated from Phoenix to Old Town Scottsdale in 2014, and artist Geoffrey Gersten opened a gallery in Scottsdale earlier this year.
Wilhelm suspects that several factors have contributed to his declining gallery sales in Scottsdale in recent years, including increased sales tax on fine art purchased in Scottsdale then shipped by galleries out of state.
He wishes there’d been less press about the battle between some gallery owners and Artisan Markets, which holds seasonal tented events on the Scottsdale Waterfront, and says it’s sometimes been hard to see visible signs of City support for the Old Town gallery scene.
Still, Wilhelm says he’s not interested in stirring up controversy about the possible demise of the Old Town arts district. In the end, it comes down to simple math.
“We sucked it up for the better part of two years,” Wilhelm says. “When the bank balance is close to zero, it’s time to move on."