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PA Jeweler Features $10M Of Original Picasso, Van Gogh, Other Art Masters In Store |  December 21, 2020 (0 comments)


Kennett Square, PA—At Bove Jewelers, the most valuable items in the store are not in the showcases. Instead, they’re hanging on the wall: original, signed works of art by such renowned masters as Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, and many more. Although lesser-known works by each of the artists, they are authentic, and in total are worth over $10 million. 

WHYY, the Philadelphia, PA-based National Public Radio station, featured the store’s exhibit in a reportImage: Jeweler Bob Strehlau holds “Landscape With Trees,” an ink drawing by Vincent Van Gogh valued at $4.8 million. A portrait of John Lennon by Andy Warhol hangs at left. (Photo, Emma Lee/WHYY)

How did a small jeweler in a small town pull that off? 

To start with, Kennett Square isn’t just any small town. Tucked in Pennsylvania’s lush Brandywine Valley in the southeastern tip of the state about 40 miles from Philadelphia, the town is a tourist destination famous for both mushrooms and art, and it also attracts history buffs who come to see the nearby site where the Battle of Brandywine was fought during the American Revolution.

At the center of the world’s largest mushroom-farming region, Kennett Square also is the home of Longwood Gardens, a former DuPont family estate that now attracts millions of visitors as a museum and horticultural center. Nearby, the famed Wyeth dynasty of painters—N.C., Andrew, and Jamie, as well as other family members—rose to prominence and gave birth to the Brandywine School of American realism and the Brandywine River Museum of Art attracts millions of Wyeth fans and art students every year. The main street of downtown Kennett Square features a wealth of shops, galleries, restaurants, and a large seasonal farmers' market. Not surprisingly, mushrooms are featured prominently in specialty dishes and farmer's market offerings.

Back to Bove Jewelers. Founded in 1929, the store passed through four owners and almost closed in 2016 when the last former owners had to go out of business to clear debts. At the 11th hour, jeweler Bob Strehlau—then the store’s manager—purchased the business and saved the store from closing. Strehlau comes from a family with a long history in the jewelry business, dating back to 1879, 50 years earlier than Bove, according to the store's website. The family owned stores in Cape May, NJ, and Aston, PA. Strehlau’s grandfather, Charles Holland, was a watchmaker and diamond setter who helped introduce his grandson to the business as a goldsmith and as a diamond setter. 

Although Kennett Square and the surrounding Chester County area is quite affluent and it’s very close to Wilmington, DE, with its high concentration of banking and DuPont executives, the store’s product offerings had grown a bit too fancy for local tastes and/or budgets, Strehlau said in an article at the time of purchase. He revamped the product lines and made multiple other changes to the business.

Fast forward to 2020. The state of Pennsylvania had shut down most retail for eight to 12 weeks in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic from March to June, depending on location and virus numbers. Strehlau had to close for 90 days, and though he has since brought all his employees back to work, he continues to operate by appointment only. Without the usual foot traffic the popular little town brings, Strehlau and his brother, who works with him in the store, wanted to do something unusual, he told WHYY. They ended up with the pop-up exhibition featuring 48 pieces of original one-of-a-kind drawings and paintings, or hand-signed prints from the artists, all loaned by his customers. (Did we mention this is an affluent area?)

“It was easier than you would think,” said Strehlau told WHYY. “These are good clients of ours. We have their trust already. They thought it was a great idea.”

Click here for the full WHYY article.

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