Attic Gallery, Maria & Tommer Gonser, Diana Faville
Longtime institution of art and culture in downtown Camas, Attic Gallery, has been going strong for nearly five decades.
Maria and Tommer Gonser have owned and operated The Attic Gallery in downtown Camas for more than five years now, but what you may not know is that the gallery was originally started in 1973 by Diana Faville, Maria’s mom, in the attic of their home in Portland, Oregon. Back then, Maria said, “When the flag was out, we were open for business,” inviting art lovers, customers, neighbors and passersby to come in and admire the art created by locals.
Maria and Tommer moved their family to this side of the Columbia River, to Washougal, and started shopping and dining in downtown Camas. Maria said it “just made sense” for them to relocate the gallery and was a good business move coming from Portland.
Seeing the need for art culture in Camas and the fact that the city was starting to grow exponentially, it made sense to open the gallery. It was still just an easy drive across the river for their long-time customers. Maria and Tommer agreed, they wanted to be a part of the downtown Camas vibe!
Maria, after growing up with a gallery literally in her attic, she learned the value of art culture and what it meant to others. Her mother eventually opened a successful gallery in downtown Portland, outside of their attic. Later, in 1999, Maria and Tommer joined Diana working in that Portland gallery. Maria helped her mom with the artist procurement and gallery exhibits. Tommer’s skills were put to use creating custom framing and expanding the frame shop. Together, the husband and wife team knew they wanted to continue working together.
Of course, moving a well-established gallery came with its challenges. Getting the word out and letting people know of the new Camas gallery was one of the biggest challenges. Once the doors were closed in Portland, a notice was posted with the new location. Because of a Google address update error, it took three months for the listing to be right, and it was quite a challenge for people to know where they landed. Attic Gallery sent mailers to all of their customers and invited them to the new location in Camas. Establishing the new customer base was difficult. As time went on, many people discovered where they were. “We didn’t know where you were but so glad we found you again” was a common quote in many of their early communications with customers.
Folks know where Attic Gallery is today, for sure, and their art and culture brighten the downtown Camas scene immeasurably. “Our customers are adventurous, they love seeing something new,” Maria said. “And we are seeing first-time visitors that have never even been to an art gallery.” More than a place to buy a painting, they are solidified in their role as a center for art culture. They have expanded their gallery showroom creating a beautiful space adjacent to the gallery, adding a custom frame shop with moulding samples.
After five years in downtown Camas, business is strong. In fact, just prior to the pandemic, Maria said Attic Gallery had their best February on record. “Our customers are everything. And tourists are such a bright spot, because they like to bring something back from the town they visit and they don’t want to come back empty handed. Some look at artwork online, some just browse the store, then they tell others about what they see. Word of mouth leads to eventual customers.”
They look forward to having a bustling gallery on weekends, during events and seeing the people. “We can’t wait for the buzz of people and lots of spirit like before!” To see their gallery offerings and exhibits artists, check out their website and pick your favorite piece, www.atticgallery.com.