Washington Street pioneer business to close
The owner of a pioneer business on Washington Street has succumbed to financial reality.
Phyllis Bridges said Thursday she will close Yalik’s Modern Art at 710 Washington St. at the end of this month. Yalik’s, which opened in October 2008, exhibits and sells contemporary works by African-American artists, with a focus on local artists.
Bridges, who was laid off from her job with a home builder in Greensboro several months ago, has not been able to generate enough sales income to maintain overhead on the gallery space she rented.
“There’s not enough traffic coming through, which is not helping with sales,” Bridges said. “The traffic on Washington Street has come to a halt all of a sudden. I don’t know what happened, but for the past few months it’s been really dead. I just need a better location.
“And the threat of the Kilby (Hotel) and First Baptist (Church) coming down puts a lot of negative energy in the air, and I don’t do well with that.”
The historic hotel and church, across the street from Yalik’s, recently were condemned by the city of High Point, and their future is uncertain. Owners of both buildings are struggling to find money to bring them up to city code, but their tasks will be mammoth.
Even though the Yalik’s gallery will close, Bridges will continue to sell art online and doesn’t rule out opening a gallery at another location later.
For now, she will take a break and focus on her huge, ongoing project of making a documentary about High Point’s black community. She also would like to become involved in more community projects, and she recently was named to the board of Theatre Art Galleries.
She hopes to exhibit art at other spaces in town that are good matches, she said.
“I’m not shutting down the business, just the gallery part,” Bridges said. “My time here (on Washington Street) has expired, and it’s time to go on to something else, but I’m still going to be involved with art.
“I’ve been at it so hard for the last four years, and I’ve been frustrated because I thought arts in High Point would be doing more than it is because we have so much to offer,”
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City Project leader understands plight, praises Bridges’ role
BY VICKI KNOPFLER
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
HIGH POINT — When efforts to revitalize Washington Street, once the center of High Point’s business and black community, began in 2007-2008, Phyllis Bridges was one of the first entrepreneurs to open shop there.
She initially operated Yalik’s Modern Art, named after her grandson, from her home, and she jumped at the chance to expand to a public gallery space in the area that once was derelict and unsafe.
Wendy Fuscoe, executive director of City Project, which has led revitalization efforts on Washington Street, for the most part agrees with Bridges’ assessment of Washington Street and understands the financial reality Bridges faces. Fuscoe, however, has far from given up on Washington Street.
Mostly, Fuscoe praises Bridges’ bravery and business acumen.
“Phyllis was a pioneer, and there just aren’t enough of them,” Fuscoe said. “I think she’s got a great business model. It’s just that the time is not right there, and she can’t hang on any longer.
“She’s put her heart and soul into that business. If you look at the big picture, was it lost? Her business earned her credibility in the community, and that will only serve her well in the future. She’s a good businesswoman, and she does well in the community. She will be open again, and I hope it will be on Washington Street, but it may not be. We’ll have to see.”
Fuscoe disagrees that traffic recently has slowed on Washington Street. Rather, she said, there’s never been much pedestrian traffic there. Because so few business have opened, there’s no reason to go to Washington Street.
“There’s not enough core businesses, so there’s not that synergy of being able to walk next door to the next business,” Fuscoe said.
“There’s not a negative atmosphere, but it is a challenge. To expect it’s going to be a vibrant, busy designation place in the short two or three years is unrealistic and ridiculous. We’re still building that up. For Phyllis to step up and do what she did, I can’t say enough positive things about that.
“I’m sad it didn’t last, but I’m not sure Washington Street is the best place for her right now, today.”
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