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One couple was involved with all three enterprises.
By SHARON L. BOND
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 28, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg and on the boardwalk at John's Pass in Madeira Beach have closed, and their space is for rent.
Neither was open very long despite the commercial popularity of the artist. A third gallery, at Tyrone Square Mall, remains open but under new ownership.
Thomas Kinkade is known as the Painter of Light, his trademark, for his soft lithographs of landscapes, cottages, landmarks such as Fisherman's Wharf and symbols of home, such as garden gates. His company, Media Arts Group of Morgan Hill, Calif., licenses the sale of the work in so-called signature galleries, which are independently owned and operated. Some of the lithographs cost thousands of dollars.
Involved in the ownership of the galleries that have closed and the shop that remains open at the St. Petersburg mall were Dee and David Desper. David Desper is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Dee Desper has a background in nursing. They live in St. Petersburg.
Repeated efforts to get comment from the Despers on the closings were unsuccessful.
The couple said in a 1999 interview with Neighborhood Times that they were looking for a second business to get involved with, one that could include their teenage children. Collectors of the Kinkade art, the Despers said they liked its "positive, warm and fuzzy" message.
They opened their first gallery at 202 Beach Drive NE in late 1999. The Boardwalk Gallery at John's Pass opened late last year, just after the one at Tyrone Square Mall.
"When I spoke to David Desper, he said the franchise was purchased," said Bob Serata, of Bernies & Son jewelers on Beach Drive near the Kinkade gallery on that street. Serata also is involved in the Quarter Business Association, which includes Beach Drive.
"I think business has been slow," Serata said. "They hadn't been in business long enough to be established. The economy is down. You have to have good times to be able to handle the bad."
Serata said the Despers will be missed by other Beach Drive merchants.
The Tyrone Square Mall gallery was purchased by CreativeWorks Galleries in Tampa, which has five galleries in the Tampa Bay area.
"The gallery became available, and we opened it," said Michael Windfeldt, president of CreativeWorks.
Because the galleries are independently owned and operated, Kinkade's company could not say what happened in the case of the three Pinellas shops.
"We never discuss openings and closings," said Bob Martin, vice president of marketing for Media Arts Group. "We have galleries open and close all the time for a myriad of reasons: people go into a different business, changes in leases, or a location is not good."