“What I did for love” is one of the iconic songs from the musical, Chorus Line. Talk to Peter Frigeri and Heidi Kyser about their new store in the Las Vegas arts district, and love of the new business is apparent. Frigeri adds, “Yes, we love what we’re doing now, but we probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the recession.”
Frigeri is the owner of Expo Ease, a major supplier of floral arrangements and other services for Las Vegas conventions. Founded in 1995, Frigeri’s business grew as the Las Vegas convention business grew.
With a bachelor of science in horticulture from Penn State, Frigeri had always wanted to have a retail store. However, his busy convention work and family obligations left little time for anything else. Frigeri has two children who live with him part-time. He and Kyser also share their household with four dogs.
Then comes the recession. Las Vegas convention business took a major hit as did all the related service businesses. Frigeri suddenly had time.
Before the recession, Kyser, too, had a full schedule as an editor and part-time yoga instructor. As the economy tightened, her editorial duties assumed part-time status; she, too, had time.
Frigeri had long been intrigued with the 18-block area in downtown Las Vegas known as the arts district; he and Kyser live nearby. Years ago, Frigeri would have located his convention business office in the arts district, but store rents then were quite high. Suddenly, due to the recession, those rents became affordable.
In June, Frigeri found a building at Charleston and Main that could accommodate Expo Ease and a new retail business. Kyser stepped in as partner, web designer, artist liaison, voice on the answering machine and keeper of the mailing list.
Their new retail store, Gaia, was named for the Greek Goddess personifying Mother Earth. Frigeri and Kyser are hikers and campers and lovers of the natural life; their store is a reflection of its owners. Whenever possible, the flowers sold at Gaia are certified sustainably grown cut flowers. Kyser also eagerly shows an artist’s jewelry made of recycled silver. And once a week, the store delivers organic material clipped from its plants and flowers to the Springs Preserve composting program.
For Kyser, the best part of Gaia is that, in addition to pioneering the use of sustainable flowers, the store also features the work of local artists: painters, photographers, ceramicists, jewelry designers, etc. “I love getting to know our artists,” says Kyser. “We feature their work in the store and on the website and we often devote one of our windows to an artist’s favorite charity. So many wonderful talented people are here in Las Vegas.”
A great deal of Gaia’s business comes as a result of the First Friday crowds who visit the arts district the first Friday evening of every month. Gaia can expect 100 to 200 people on those nights. “In addition to First Friday,” Kyser explains, “many of the stores in the arts district also have a Preview Thursday for friends and collectors.”
On Thursday evening February 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., Gaia is hosting its own “preview Thursday” in the form of an artist’s reception for Hamilton Moore, a nature photographer who prints large format photographs on canvas.
Who are Gaia’s customers? “First Friday visitors include a few tourists, but most of our customers are local people who appreciate the creative community in Las Vegas,” said Frigeri. “We’re hoping that at Gaia, eventually all our businesses will merge – that the people who order our flower arrangements will also want to have those flowers arranged in a beautiful ceramic vase by one of the local artists. At Expo Ease, we’re looking forward to the day when our convention customers will be able to say that all flowers used at their convention are from sustainable growers; right now we can’t always get the varieties we want from sustainable growers, but we’re hoping that will change.”