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Business is built frame by frame

At No Naked Walls, the shop's name is also its mantra. It offers custom frames and art.

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published June 11, 2007


Ron Urbanovitch (left) and Rod Wortham (right) became buisness partners and opened a second location of No Naked Walls on Ridge Road.
photo
[Julia Kumari Drapkin | Times]
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NEW PORT RICHEY - It was sort of an accident that Ron Urbanovitch named his art and frame gallery No Naked Walls.

Outrageous names aren't exactly his oeuvre.

He's generally a quiet, thoughtful guy, who thinks before he speaks.

"I was just trying to think of names one day, thought of this one and bought all the dot coms and dot orgs," he explained one afternoon while working at the gallery at 6736 Ridge Road.

Urbanovitch, who also specializes in historic photo restoration, used to own camera shops and later photo labs. About four years ago, he and his family decided to move from Pinellas to Pasco County, hoping to avoid the daily traffic glut.

They bought a house on an acre in Tanglewood, an equestrian community in New Port Richey.

They also bought two Paso Fino horses -- Magic and Andy -- that Urbanovitch and his daughter, Erica, 23, like to ride in Starkey Park.

Urbanovitch spent a year looking for the right business to open in Pasco and settled on a 900-square-foot art and framing gallery in the USA Fleamarket, where he opened the first No Naked Walls.

He was drawn to the idea of owning an art gallery because it related to what he had done in the past and he thought there was a strong market for it in Florida.

After a hurricane scare a few years ago he had to remove his entire store inventory from the flea market he began to re-think the idea of a flea market as a sole location.

"After carrying all of my stuff out," he recalls, "I thought 'what would I do if a hurricane shut this down?' I would have nothing."

So he teamed up with Rod Wortham, a St. Louis native and former marketing executive who once owned two NASCAR farm teams in the Midwest.

Urbanovitch and Wortham initially met at the USA Fleamarket, where Wortham had a NASCAR-related booth across from the No Naked Walls art gallery.

The two forged a friendship and eventually became business partners.

In March 2006, they opened the second, larger No Naked Walls gallery on Ridge Road.

From the beginning, Wortham recalls, his marketing instincts told him the No Naked Walls name was a winner.

"It's the best name I've ever heard for an art store," he says. "My concept is that someday we will franchise it -- all because of the name!"

Wortham, who is married and lives in Aristida, another Pasco equestrian community that backs up to Starkey Park, admits he's the designated decorator in his family.

He loves collecting antiques (like the decorative Russian table he picked up recently at a garage sale) finding the right art to hang on his walls, and coordinating colors in his Mediterranean-style house.

"My friends say: 'This 6-foot-4, 255-pound bald NASCAR motorhead redneck can't be into decorating?' " he says with a laugh.

After two heart attacks, his career in NASCAR has tapered off a bit, though he still loves it.

Late last week, he and Urbanovitch were in the midst of changing exhibits in the gallery portion of the now 4,000-square-foot store on Ridge Road (they recently expanded when an adjacent dance-wear store left).

All around them the walls were quilted with colorful works by local artists: wildlife paintings of shorebirds and roseate spoonbills, abstract, ethereal wall sculpture that resembled driftwood or clouds, a bright beachy painting on an easel that looked like Haitian art.

The gallery draws artists eager to display and their work in the local market. It's also attracting customers from Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, some of whom come for custom frames or to browse artwork, including a good selection "outdoor" prints designed to withstand Florida's wild weather.

"It always surprises me when I do our mailing list to see where people are coming from," says Erica Urbanovitch, who has been working in the store -- cutting mats, working with customers and helping with ordering -- while she finishes up her senior year in microbiology at the University of South Florida.

This spring, about 400 people showed up for an art show that displayed the work of students at Trinity Elementary School.

A lot of customers have found their way to the store for custom framing or to buy commercial artwork, including "texturized prints," a No Naked Walls specialty. Artists also come to have specialized giclee prints made of their work. And a growing number of customers bring tattered or faded family photos and ask Urbanovitch to restore them.

"We've had people who see their (restored) photos for the first time and stand at the counter and cry," Wortham says.

"I gave him a picture of my parents taken years ago in a photo booth. My dad's hair was messed up and the background was funky. What Ron did with that picture blew me away."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

[Last modified June 11, 2007, 07:17:47]


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