Columbus native Nicholas Gonzalez wore many hats throughout his long career, from taxi driver, to restaurant manager, and finally retiring as an insurance underwriter. After losing his wife to cancer in 2004, he found himself pursuing a very different passion: painting.
His love of creating art soon developed into a dream to open a gallery.
“I wanted to be surrounded by beautiful art every day, and I wanted to leave a business that was cultural in nature to my daughter,” says Gonzalez. “I wanted to create an artist-friendly gallery where I could encourage emerging artists.”
In February 2011, Gonzalez began building the business in earnest and came to the Economic and Community Development Institute.
“I highly recommend ECDI for those wishing to start a small business,” Gonzalez says of ECDI’s suite of small business programs. “They helped me with developing a business plan, with training and with a small business loan.”
He was considering opening his gallery in the neighborhood of Franklinton or suburban community of Hilliard, but a location in the budding Westgate neighborhood was the ideal spot for the new NRG Gallery. Opened in October, the gallery is currently showing the work of 23 artists with styles ranging from mixed media to metalwork to photography and more.
The West Side’s only gallery, NRG is hosting many special events next month. On Dec. 1, the gallery is hosting a candlelight vigil in honor of World AIDS Awareness Day. There is a GLBT exhibition on Dec. 3, and a photography exhibition on Dec. 10. Gonzalez hopes to soon open a café and performance space in the storefront next door with coffee, pastries, and wi-fi.
Through ECDI’s programs, Gonzalez was able to bring his appreciation for art to the city’s West Side. Since 2004, ECDI has made more than $9 million in loans to about 550 small businesses, creating or retaining about 1,650 jobs. Every business and job created or retained equates to an increase in state and local tax dollars. In addition, ECDI has brought millions of federal dollars into the local economy, and has helped keep those dollars circulating locally through small business capitalization.
In the past, ECDI has been able to finance businesses like NRG Gallery primarily through federal, state, and local programs. As the demand for our small business financing products skyrocketed, we knew it was time to create a new source for loan funds by launching the Invest Local Ohio campaign.
Every dollar committed by individual investors to the Invest Local Ohio program will be loaned to a local small business and leveraged with at least two more dollars from other ECDI loan funds and guarantees a minimum two percent return. Investors have the opportunity to lift up hardworking entrepreneurs like Nicholas Gonzalez, whose success bolsters the local economy, creates jobs and taxpayers, and translates to more Ohioans participating in the economic mainstream.
To learn more about NRG Gallery, visit www.NRGgalleryllc.com.
If you could invest in fuller lives for Central Ohioans looking to capitalize their dream, would you? For more information on becoming an investor in the Invest Local Ohio campaign, contact ECDI President Steve Fireman at 614-732-0577 or [email protected].