By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Things are happening in La Mesa Village. Stroll the boulevard, and you can people-watch in the renovated storefront windows, grab breakfast or a nice dinner, share a beer or a craft-caffeine fix with a friend.
And now, since Nov. 1, you can enjoy the works of local artists, have some fine-art framing done — even take a painting class while sipping wine — at Nainsook Framing + Art.
Nainsook is one of the newest additions to a trend that — if all goes as the owners hope — will transform La Mesa Boulevard into a wining, dining and arts destination, similar to San Diego’s popular commercial districts.
“We love the small village feel of it,” said co-owner Roz Oserin. She and her husband Dan opened Nainsook with a lot of planning and enthusiasm. “It’s a very central location,” she continued, “easy on and off the freeways. It has the charm of the old craftsman homes and the walkability, which makes it a good location.”
After owning a La Mesa salon and spa for 18 years, the Oserins were ready for a new challenge, and one fell into their laps. Roz had been painting for about nine years, and her framer was ready to retire. They did some research and learned that the median age in La Mesa was decreasing while income was rising — encouraging data for a business owner.
“What it says,” Roz Oserin explained, “is that La Mesa is re-gentrifying, it’s becoming the next South Park or North Park.”
While some La Mesans might prefer the community fade into relative obscurity, art as a focal point is a proven draw and it is not a new pursuit for La Mesa.
Jim Newland, president of the La Mesa Historical Society, recounted some of the past efforts to highlight La Mesa’s arts community, as far back as the late 1800s.
“James Tank Porter, who was a sculptor, his parents came here in the early part of the 1890s. He was really well known as a sculptor — and he was a planning commissioner. And the Grossmont area, when it was started in the early 19-teens, it was going to be an artist colony,” he said.
“They went after musicians and artists and authors. It didn’t become what they planned, but there have always been artists here. The Foothills Art Association, which came out of the La Mesa Women’s Club, goes back to 1942. We’ve had a longstanding theater group. … The arts have always been important to the community.”
That sense of importance will be vital to the Oserins’ venture, and they are using their accumulated experience and knowledge of the community to make Nainsook successful.
“I feel like I have ridden through the test of time,” Roz Oserin said, “and I have a good feel for business here. Marketing is everything — and customer service. We want to be the go-to spot for artists and anyone who’s looking to enhance and protect their art. We want to take in special projects and educate everyone about how important the conservation of art is — and that we can provide that service.”
Dan Oserin works with another framer, Liz Chapman, to create custom framing for both artists and arts patrons.
According to Roz Oserin, Nainsook’s framing “will be moderately-priced, exceptional framing with design ideas in mind.”
They have someone on board with a background in interior design, who will consult in the home or in the office on art purchasing and display.
In addition to art sales, framing and design, the Oserins are eager to introduce the community to fun arts opportunities, while supporting local artists. They conduct monthly Wine + Paint classes for adult beginners; they plan to offer “advanced education” for artists; and they’ve even created a custom class for a family visiting the area from Florida.
La Mesa might never be considered an artist colony, but the Village is certainly developing a new aesthetic that will draw consumers to its sidewalks.
And if you’re wondering about the name, Nainsook is adapted from the Sanskrit for “eye pleasure.”
—Kit-Bacon Gressitt writes commentary and essays for Excuse Me, I’m Writing, is a founding editor of WritersResist.com, and has been published by Missing Slate, Ms. Magazine blog and Trivia: Voices of Feminism, among others. She formerly wrote for the North County Times. She also hosts Fallbrook Library’s monthly Writers Read authors series and open mic, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.