Sharing a creative vision for growth
In a 34,000-square-foot industrial building, located in burgeoning Avondale Estates, Little Tree Art Studios is the fulfillment of a dream first hatched by Marghe and Bob Means nearly four decades ago.
Inside are studio spaces leased to painters, sculptors, jewelers and more. Not far from the cosplay costume designer, the artist who makes band touring posters, and the team recently commissioned to make textile pieces for memory care facilities, you’ll find a florist, a bookmaker, and a cello teacher. Down the way, near the soundproofed band rehearsal rooms, there’s someone making light installations and another using 3D printers to craft product prototypes.
The husband-and-wife team behind this creative oasis met in art school in the early 80s. They imagined owning a warehouse of studios, creating a collaborative space to both house and celebrate the arts. But first came marriage, children, and separate career paths: Bob in visual merchandising, Marghe as an art consultant.
In 1998, they bought the sprawling building where Bob was already leasing space. It was a deal they only pursued after the former owner proposed selling it to them, offering great terms and owner financing. It was an opportunity they couldn’t refuse. As time and tenant businesses moved on, they gradually converted larger spaces into smaller studios for like-minded people to use 24/7. Their vision unfolded organically, slowly, and a bit to their surprise.
“We only realized what we had accomplished after we created it,” Marghe says. “It’s taken us years to get to this point.”
Today, there are 50-plus studio spaces, with a waiting list that’s at least 50-requests deep. It’s a multicultural and multigenerational community, including 20-somethings just out of art school and others who are in their twilight years. Some tenants are professionals with exclusive gallery deals, while others pursue their art for therapeutic purposes.
When the Meanses bought the building nearly 25 years ago, they couldn’t have imagined what Avondale Estates would become. They’re now nestled amid bustling breweries, a trendy new mixed-use development, quaint shops, and hot restaurants.
It’s now time to shift their focus from what they’ve created inside to sprucing up the exterior. Along with a new roof, updated doors and windows, and other aesthetic upgrades, there are plans for a boardwalk with ramps to ensure easy access. And while they’re at it, they’d like a greenspace within the blacktop parking lot, so the Little Tree community and visitors can actually enjoy some trees.
All this pending work is being made possible thanks to refinancing through Tandem Bank. In their banker, the Meanses found someone who “understood a creative business, asked all the right questions and was nonplussed by what we wanted,” Marghe says. “It wasn’t a daunting experience. He made it really easy. And there was great synchronicity.”
That sort of partnership will come in handy as the Meanses think about future growth. Their son Taylor, also an artist, bought the building behind Little Tree — also with Tandem’s help — and is expanding his parents’ vision.
With one dream fulfilled, why not think bigger?