CANNON BEACH — There’s a surprising amount of crossover between operating a chemical company and owning an art gallery.
That’s how Joe Clayton, the new managing director of Bronze Coast Gallery in Cannon Beach, sees it anyway. At the end of last year, Clayton retired after 34 years at the Sea-Land Chemical Co. in Westlake, Ohio, to pursue his other passion: art.
“They actually have pretty similar business models. I used to represent and sell 40 high-end chemicals. Now I’m representing 40 high-end artists,” he said.
Clayton took over the gallery in January following the retirement of Kim Barnett, who has owned and operated Bronze Coast for 25 years. Clayton has spent the majority of his career selling water treatment chemicals like industrial lubricants, but said he has had a love and appreciation for the arts for most of his life.
He remembers touring museums while he studied abroad in Switzerland. He and his wife, Marilyn, are ardent art collectors, keeping collections from every region in which they have lived. When possible, the two try to support local artists by commissioning pieces.
“I can’t do anything artistic myself. But I appreciate the skill. I’m fascinated by it,” he said. “My love of art always balanced out my career in the business world. Sure, you need creativity in business, but where do you draw that creativity from? Art was my way to balance my life.”
So as he prepared to retire, Clayton stayed on the lookout for available galleries to manage. Clayton and his wife were also looking at the Oregon Coast for a summer home. At the same time, Bronze Coast Gallery became available, and the opportunity to manage a gallery by the water lined up.
With this being his first venture into the gallery world, Clayton doesn’t plan to change much.
“Part of what made this gallery so attractive was how not much needs to be changed. Kim has done a fantastic job,” he said. “We have great clientele, great artists and a wonderful set of employees. So if we’re not broken, then it doesn’t need to be fixed. But it would be naive to say we can’t do better.”
Clayton hopes to maintain the gallery’s relationships with artists, as well as expand and diversify pieces with new artists. The biggest change customers will see in the near future is an updated website.
“I’m still new to this. I want to learn,” he said. “To change for the sake of change is not something I believe in.”
While Clayton loves the beauty of the Oregon Coast, he said he plans to split his time between Cannon Beach and Phoenix, Arizona, where his wife still lives.
“Sometimes I need a week of sun,” he laughed.