BY BROOKSIE BERGEN/
PHOTO BY MARK SICKLES
Shelly and Lois Ross were young and newly married when they began careers
that would seemingly lead them in different professional directions. After
serving in the Army, Shelly went to work as a buyer for a department store
in downtown Chicago before becoming a department store manager in the
Detroit area. For the first four years of their marriage, Lois was busy
raising their two children, though still determined to achieve a higher
education. She took design classes while the children were in school,
working slowly but steadily to attain her ASID and NCIDQ qualifications
while pursuing a career in design.
After lengthy discussions, the couple decided to become partners in a new
venture. Shelly decided to resign his position as department store manager
and combine his talents with his wife’s to open an art gallery/design studio
in Southfield, Mich., in the early ’70s.
“We were the first to try this concept, but with Shelly’s expertise in
retail and store design, and with my studies involving design, the business
proved successful from the first day,” Lois says. After 10 years, the couple
moved to larger quarters in Southfield, as the business continued to expand.
“In 1987, we came to Sarasota for a vacation, fell in love with it, and
bought a condo on Longboat Key,” Lois says. “For three years we visited for
a week every month—for three years checking out area businesses, all the
time planning to eventually retire here. We knew we were still too young to
retire, but in 1990we decided to relocate to Sarasota, and opened our first
gallery/design studio at 500 N. Tamiami Trail in 1991. Because of our
backgrounds and experience in the field, our business proved to be very
successful. At the time, we were the only contemporary art gallery in
Sarasota carrying world-class glass combined with a furniture/design
Lois’ impeccable taste, her eye for accentuating space to reflect its
owner’s style and her focus on designing each home to fit the client’s needs
and desires caught the attention of a steady stream of clients. Shelly,
affable and knowledgeable, acted as gallery director and worked the
gallery/showroom. His expertise is art history, and he has a deft touch in
rearranging the displays.
In 2001, with business booming, the couple moved to their current location
on North Palm Avenue, filling their showroom with fine artwork and
contemporary furnishings, everything from wall art to sculpture and glass.
“Having the showroom helps because our clients can see for themselves what
the studio can provide,” says Lois. “I’m constantly searching for new items
on buying trips so that the showroom reflects change. This summer I’ll be
traveling to Aspen, California and Chicago, designing homes and seeking
exciting new art.”
“We are an unbelievable combination. We’ve been in business together for 37
years, married for 50,” says Shelly.
Adds Lois, “We both love our work, and decided years ago that we would only
retire when work isn’t fun anymore."