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Robin Lerios, the new owner and operator of York Gallery Design & Framing, packages a photograph for a customer (Matthew Hintz/Sentinel).

SANTA CRUZ -- Robin Lerios has taken over York Framing Gallery after 16 years of working there and moved the shop to a high-profile location at 619 Soquel Ave. across from Shopper's Corner.

Lerios, a third-generation Santa Cruz resident, said she hesitated to buy the business until she talked with longtime customer Bill Francis, a local endodontist and shaman.

He told her, "You already own it," and "You wrap all of your art with love."

She agreed, and Francis conducted a blessing ceremony for her and 25 friends to launch the enterprise.

Lerios orchestrated a move from 2724 Soquel Ave. over two weeks, opening Jan. 9. She kept all six employees and hired two more.

Saturday, she will host a grand opening featuring five local artists, including this year's Wharf to Wharf Race poster artist Louanne Korver and past poster artists Paul Fortis and Marie Gabrielle.

One wall features past Wharf to Wharf art -- you can order posters going back to 2002 -- and one area, decorated by colorful hanging lamps from Om Gallery downtown, is stocked with discounted ready-made frames. The price is $35 for a frame that would cost $100 if custom-ordered.

Lerios also features jewelry for the table by Camille Gontarek, art glass by Christine Charter Moorhead and succulents in seashells from Kelly Lake.

Inviting artists, Lerios said, was the idea of founder Jim York, who started the business 32 years ago in the Capitola Mall.

He and his son Ryan operated the shop for many of those years before selling to the Fikes family, who offered it to Lerios.

The lease was up, and Lerios wanted a spot with more visibility.

The space at 619 Soquel Ave., vacated by Noli N Nali, was the first she looked at.

It's slightly larger, with high ceilings in the back, the better to store 12-foot "sticks" of wood, and huge picture windows providing natural light.

Lerios knew a lender at Guaranteed Rate Mortgage in Capitola and was able to obtain for a home equity line of credit to finance the purchase, despite tense moments when Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to Guaranteed's New York office, which had to give the final approval.

Local contractor Marion Shanks remodeled the space, turning a conference room into a work area where employees operate metal and wood saws and the computerized mat cutter.

Santa Cruz artist Steve Hosmer made new signs for the exterior, and Lerios promises more signs to help customers find the parking lots in back.

Longtime customer Carol Culp of Felton said she likes the variety of ready-made frames, and appreciates staff who "know their colors" and are "very patient" as shoppers ponder the choices.

"Since I've come here, I haven't gone anywhere else," she said.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz

IF YOU GO

GRAND OPENING

WHAT: York Framing Gallery grand opening party with appearances by local artists: Paul Fortis at 10 a.m., Louanne Korver at 11 a.m., Marie Gabrielle, noon to 2 p.m., Karin Leonard, 2 to 3 p.m. and photographer Tomas Spangler, 3 to 5 p.m. Goodies will be available along with discount coupons.
WHERE: 619 Soquel Ave., opposite Shopper's Corner, Santa Cruz
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
INFORMATION: www.yorkframingfallery.com or call 831-462-0313. Parking lot is behind the shop off Branciforte Avenue.