Name: Peter Steynberg
Business: Steynberg Gallery What he said then:
In March 2010, The Tribune featured Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo. It had begun serving vegetarian breakfast and lunch, along with beer and wine.
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“Whatever’s fresh is what we do that day,” said owner Peter Steynberg. “We use local and organic ingredients whenever possible.”
With a master’s degree in fine arts from Rhodes University in his native South Africa, he started the gallery in 2000 as a venue for contemporary art shows, including his oil paintings.
In a 1932 art deco building on Monterey Street built for Farmer Brothers Coffee, the gallery struggled financially, so Steynberg added coffeehouse service.
“It’s really become a sort of cultural center,” he said. “We didn’t plan any of it – we’re still evolving.”
What he says now:
The gallery-turned-coffeehouse has added a stage and formal bar. Steynberg hosts performances two to three times a week, serving dinner those nights.
“I’m still trying to stick to cultural events:” music, poetry, lectures and talks, Steynberg said. “I’m trying to get more world music.”
Keeping with the deco style, he and friends built a 1930s-style stage on a shoestring budget. It features a 20-by-11-foot mural that cost about $2,000.
“It was worth every penny of it,” he stressed. “As I’ve made a little bit of money, I’ve reinvested it.”
The bar, at the back of the space, cleared the bottleneck that occurred from serving both food and beverages in front.
Gearing his atmosphere for the “30 to 80 year old” crowd, he looks and listens for ways to offer a complimentary palette of services.
One of his most successful recurring events is Pecha Kucha Night. With something of a show-and-tell format, speakers share creativity to inspire conversation. Held regularly in 400 cities worldwide, Steynberg is the location of Pecha Kucha events several times a year.
“We have over 100 attendees with very little or no advertising,” Steynberg said.
Remembering his early struggles to turn a profit, Steynberg said: “It was me trying to be a purist.
“I was a bit idealistic about the whole thing,” he added. “I watched 30-odd galleries closing around me. I couldn’t afford that, so I did what I had to survive.”
He now employs eight mostly part-time employees.
And he no longer paints.
“I’ll eventually get back to painting,” he said. “I really don’t have any time anymore. I’m trying to keep up with the business.”