CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Art Store, a fixture on Bridge Road for decades, plans to move downtown in early 2014.
The gallery's new home will be in side-by-side buildings in the 200 block of Hale Street, the larger of which was most recently occupied by Merrill Photo.
The move solves a couple of issues for gallery owner Lisa Fischer Casto and her husband, John.
Lisa, who purchased The Art Store in January 2008, said she realized the gallery's future depended on a new location and expanded customer base.
John, meanwhile, needed tenants for the buildings, which were part of his family's business, West Virginia Heating & Plumbing Co., now located on Smith Street. John turned over the reins of the company in 2008 though he still serves as a consultant.
Lisa proposed a solution to both of their problems: Move her gallery to Hale Street. Oh, and renovate the upper floors for living space.
John balked at the ambitious nature of the project and the potential loss of his beloved gardening hobby. Lisa's solution: He can garden on the fourth-floor rooftop of 233 Hale St.
"That was the persuasive factor," she said.
Lisa sent letters about her planned move this week to the 50 local and regional artists she represents. She already has informed her landlord. And she's prepared to explain to customers, some of whom may question the decision.
"Our customer base has always been South Hills residents," she said.
They have been good and loyal, but many are now older and naturally are buying less art. To tap into a wider market, Lisa believes she needs a more prominent location closer to young professionals and businesses.
"That's why I'm doing it," she said.
Certainly, it's no small task to renovate a building of 10,000 or so square feet built in the early 1900s along with its same-era smaller neighbor.
But it would be hard to find a better-qualified team than the Castos.
He's got the heating, air-conditioning and plumbing expertise. And before she took over the Art Store, Lisa was a construction project manager. She came to Charleston to manage construction of Charleston's Laidley Tower for Dudley Webb Cos. and stayed when she met John, later opening her own business.
Lisa has experience with renovating older buildings, having overseen work at the old Scott Drug building on Capitol Street and the Hale Street law offices of Bucci, Bailey & Javins.
John's hesitation had as much to do with its scope as it did with a major turn in Lisa's life last year. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 40s, Lisa suffered a sudden liver failure in early 2012 because of a complication with one of her medications.
She underwent a liver transplant 14 months ago and the road to recovery has been tough — steady but frustrating for a woman who doesn't like to stop.