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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 23, 2024


The opening of another shop on Main Street doesn't usually attract much notice. But tourism officials and merchants are watching closely to see how the new Jonna White Gallery fares.
If it does well — and so far it's doing fine — it may be a sign that Main Street can support diverse shops that attract and cater to upscale buyers.
Owner and artist Jonna White, who opened the Main Street gallery — her second downtown — a month and a half ago, estimated that she already has tripled the sales volume of her Waterfront store.
Hers is the only art gallery directly on Main Street.
Joe Aubain, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn t surprised at White's immediate success.
"The chamber has, for a long time, advocated for diversity in the Main Street merchandising," Aubain said. "I think it s great that she's doing so well."
Aubain said the chamber believes that the greater the variety of merchandise, the more attractive the destination is as a shopping mecca.
White opened the new gallery Jan. 1 in 2,300 square feet that was part of the old Sparky's space next to Royal Dane Mall.
White, of course, is no stranger to St. Thomas. She opened her first gallery here 22 years ago, and since then has been in
several locations. She moved to the Waterfront store two years ago from Bakery Square on Back Street.
"That was the first time I ever sold one thing to a cruise ship passenger," White said. Before that virtually all of her off-island customers came from the hotels.
"I have people who have been buying from me for 23 years," she said. "Now their children
buy from me.
White said she worried initially that cruise ship passengers — Main Street's mainstay — would not pay the price for her artwork. Traditionally, cruise ship passengers do not spend as much money here as overnight visitors do.
"With an average $2,000 price tag, my work is not inexpensive," White acknowledged. But the cruise passengers are buying it.
The only other art gallery on the street that has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles for the amount of money changing hands every day is the Camille Pissarro Gallery, owned by Patricia Lee. It is on the second floor on the Back Street side of the Pissarro Building farther west on Main Street.
Lee sells the work of a variety of artists. White sells only her own limited edition prints done in a centuries-old medium known as intaglio, an art form that uses etched metal plates and several colors of ink.
White said the move to Main Street was a risk, "but I believe in St. Thomas."
"I'd better," she quipped. "Now I have two leases."

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