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Meet Dennie Hahn of The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dennie Hahn.

Dennie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started out in the corporate world working for a large, nationwide company. I was always an artist but began pursuing it professionally on a part-time basis and then, eventually full time.

I was a professional artist at a number of galleries over the years. I had been considering opening a small gallery of my own and was waiting for some expansion in town to occur which would open up some space opportunities. Those were expected to take a couple of years.

So, in my mind, I had plenty of time. But, while working on a non-profit event, I saw the For Rent sign be put up on a local historical cottage. Knowing that this was a rare opportunity, I took the leap. And within ten days of getting the keys, we opened The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios St.

It sounds crazy, but I called all my artist friends, and it was like an episode of Flip This House. They jumped on board and followed my vision. As we head towards our 6th year in business, we have more than doubled the number of artists, our display space and our annual sales!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Art is everywhere and at all price ranges. So there is lots of competition. And the internet is certainly competition for every brick and mortar. Art and home decor is also a “luxury” item compared to food and fuel, so when times are tough for our customers, it’s tough for us. We are located on a historic street with a wonderful atmosphere. Once someone finds our street, we have a repeat customer. But, we are totally at the mercy of the weather.

Many tourists will venture out in minor inclement weather, but when it pours, we lose all traffic flow. Severe heat and humidity also affect traffic flow. Parking lots are a short distance from our store but too far for most to walk in bad weather. I focus on hiring not only talented artists but really special people too. Our Cottage feels like a home, it is inviting and comfortable. Having employees that embody that is really important.

On some rare occasions, it is necessary to part ways with someone who does not embody our vision. “One bad apple” became a popular saying because it is true. A leader has to work to motivate and encourage but be willing to make personnel decisions when necessary. The success of a small business, in particular, is dependent on its staff. They can make or break a small business.

Please tell us about The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios.
The Cottage Gallery features more than 40 professional artists. This is not a co-op. There are only one owner and decision maker. For those that have been in co-ops, they know that frequently co-ops can get mired in split decisions, divergent goals, and in-fighting.

The Cottage Gallery is solely my vision, but I have surrounded myself with amazing talent and wonderful personalities that help me achieve that vision. I have worked hard to create a successful business that provides a place for very talented artists to participate, to grow and succeed as well as provide a place that visitors love to come again and again. We keep the costs down by requiring each artist to work at the gallery, and that lowers our overhead significantly.

Unlike many other galleries, we are located in a historical cottage, so the feeling and presentation in the gallery are much more welcoming and much less intimidating than so many galleries. It is like we are welcoming you into our home. We also present many forms and many price ranges, so we are much more accessible to the general public than some of the pricier galleries.

We feature only local artists – all within a 40 miles radius. We have a wide but complimentary array of art with the addition of fine crafts and handmade jewelry as well as local authors. Because we are in a home setting, we also have a wonderful garden space. This allows us to offer outdoor art as well as vintage items. It is hard to compare us with other gallery spaces – the setting is quite unique.

While we might be casual in our appearance, the art is top notch. What also sets us apart is the street we are located on. Los Rios St is the oldest residential street in the state with all business owners required to live on the property. Strolling the street is a wonderful experience and unique to most shopping experiences. We get visitors from all over the world.

There are a number of other small cottages each of which offers a unique small business and their own wonderful specialties. I am most proud that all of the original artists I invited originally to join me on this journey are still with me. Secondly, I am proud of the family of artists that we have created which support and encourage each other.

Lastly, I am continually thankful for the compliments I receive from our customers about how much they love The Cottage Gallery. Our repeat customers who bring us new customers are incredibly important to us. They root for our success and feel good about supporting us.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I would not say it’s a favorite memory, but for as long as I can remember (far back in my childhood) I have studied every shop I have entered. I have taken in their displays, their products and most importantly their customer service.

Long before I knew I would own my own shop, I was studying for the job. Sometimes, life is leading you on a path that you didn’t even imagine but is where you were supposed to be.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 31701 Los Rios St San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
  • Website: cottagegalleryonlosrios.com
  • Phone: 9493406693
  • Email: cottagegallerylosrios@gmail.com
  • Instagram: cottage_gallery
  • Facebook: The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios
  • Yelp: The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios


Image Credit:
Tracy Evans, Dennie Hahn

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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