Somewhere Along the Way is a place to surround yourself with all forms of art, including music and poetry, while enjoying wine, beer, coffee and more.
Mark Richardson swears he had his fill of Gainesville in the early 1980s while attending Santa Fe College and playing sousaphone in the UF Marching Band.
So, why, more than 35 years later, is Richardson back in town and running a funky little art gallery/wine café called Somewhere Along the Way in the heart of downtown Gainesville?
Blame his wife, Diana, who couldn’t pass up a plum job opportunity from UF Health/Shands a few years back.
“I’m like, ‘UF? Really?'” Richardson recalled telling her. “We’re not moving to Gainesville. I did Gainesville. That was back in the ’80s, and it was fun. We wore flip flops and T-shirts. It’s changed.”
After some arm twisting, however, Richardson eventually caved in.
Earlier this year, Richardson, 56, opened Somewhere Along the Way in Union Street Station, on the same block of Southeast 2nd Place that includes the Black C Art Gallery and the Artisans’ Guild Gallery. He had opened a similar gallery three years ago on Cholokka Boulevard in Micanopy, but decided downtown Gainesville was a better fit for his business.
Somewhere Along the Way features the works of almost 20 regional artists in all mediums, including painting, sculpture, pottery, blown glass, wood, mosaic, photography, poetry and writing. The artwork surrounds several cozy seating areas, where customers can relax and enjoy some wine, beer or coffee in an intimate atmosphere.
“Someone said ‘This is Gainesville’s favorite living room,’ and I thought ‘That’s pretty much what I really wanted to capture,'” Richardson said.
Somewhere Along the Way is also downtown Gainesville’s newest music venue. In recent months, Richardson has brought in classical guitarists, pianists, poets and the local Americana folk duo Damaged Daughters for regular appearances.
On Saturday, the gallery will present the Swan City Jazz Project from 5:30-9 p.m. The trio — Rick Runion (sexophone), Jody Marsh (piano) and Philip Booth (bass) — draws from standards, blues, bossa nova and funk, as well as original compositions. The event is free and open to the public.
“The whole point is, art comes in many forms, not just sculpture or a painting,” Richardson said. “It’s music, it’s flavors, sounds, colors, light, glass. …
“I think we need to appreciate art where it is and recognize it. I want people to experience it, not just categorize it, place it somewhere, lose it and move on.”
Although Richardson wants people to come into Somewhere Along the Way and order a drink or two, he wants people to immerse themselves in the art that fills the walls and display cases.
“First and foremost, this is an art gallery,” he said. “I want people to experience art, but I want them to experience art in a new way. It’s kind of a nonthreatening way. Typically when you have art in your home, it may not be quite this busy, but it’s going to be in a fashion more like this. You’re not typically going to have just a solid wall with one piece that’s lit and nothing around it. You’re going to have several pieces and you’re going to decorate your home in a way that’s comfortable. And that’s what I want.”
Richardson said the more often people surround themselves with art, the more likely they will be to notice nuances — and perhaps purchase a piece or two.
“And the more times you’re in here, spending time with the art, you come to appreciate it more,” he said. “I think life’s that way, too. When we’re out in nature, we don’t spend enough time just sitting and looking at something and appreciating it. And that’s the idea. I want people to come in, hang out, and look at it and appreciate it, or listen to it, or taste it.”
Right now, the challenge for Richardson is drawing people inside.
“One of things is people don’t know I’m here, so it’s just getting the word out,” he said. “When they walk by, they’re not sure what I am either. Once they’re in, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh! This is so cool. It’s so different’.”
Richardson grew up in the Panhandle town of Chattahoochee, where his father was a country doctor. His family later moved to Lakeland, where Richardson graduated from Lakeland High School
Then he arrived in Gainesville the first time, earning his AA at Santa Fe then attending (but not graduating from) UF. During those college years, Richardson worked at the Civitan Regional Blood Center, at Shands as an EKG technician and at the old Albertsons grocery store. He also was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and played sousaphone in the UF Marching Band and saxophone in the jazz band.
“When I left Gainesville, I was 21 and ready to do whatever I was going to do,” he said.
Richardson moved to Fort Lauderdale with his girlfriend, got married (for the first time) and had his first child. He spent 20 years in Atlanta and then 10 years in the Boston area. He eventually graduated from UMass with an information technology degree.
He was working as a senior business analyst for Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., in Boston when UF Health/Shands wooed Diana Richardson as its VP of Operations.
Downtown Gainesville was not the only area of town he considered for Somewhere Along the Way. He also looked at Tioga, Thornebrook Village and West University Avenue.
“This location seemed more appealing because of the two art galleries and the Hippodrome is so close,” he said. “And we do get a lot of foot traffic here. … It’s a good spot.”
More than 30 years after bidding farewell to Gainesville “for good,” now he’s wondering why he ever left.
“Seriously, I honesty didn’t think I would like coming back, but I really like it a whole lot,” he said. “Gainesville’s a great town.”
— Noel Leroux
Somewhere Along the Way is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. (Closed Monday.)
For further info, visit the Somewhere Along the Way website.